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Canada suggests non-essential Canadians leave Ukraine

As other countries begin to withdraw embassy and diplomatic staff from Ukraine over heightened concerns of a Russian invasion, Canada is suggesting any non-essential Canadians should leave.

“If you are in Ukraine, you should evaluate if your presence is essential,” reads the updated guidance to avoid non-essential travel to the region, due to “ongoing Russian threats and military buildup in and around the country.”

Over the weekend both the U.S. State Department and the British government acknowledged that some embassy staff and their families were being withdrawn in response to the growing Russian threat.

When asked whether Canada was planning to do the same earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was noncommittal.

“We are following the situation in Ukraine extremely closely… There are many contingency plans in place,” Trudeau said. “The safety of Canadian diplomats and their families is of course paramount, and we will continue to be there for Ukraine and ensure the safety of Canadians and Ukrainians.”

Trudeau said that Canada would be making its decision around pulling out Canadian staff based on “safety on the ground” as it relates to Russia’s amassing of troops along the border.

Citing security considerations and their policy to not discuss “operational details,” Global Affairs Canada did not comment on how many Canadian diplomats would have to be evacuated should the situation escalate further.

“Global Affairs Canada takes the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our missions overseas very seriously. Global Affairs Canada works with its missions in the development of prudent contingency planning for any type of emergency situation, and continuously monitors the security situation at its missions abroad,” said spokesperson Patricia Skinner in an email.

Heading into a three-day virtual cabinet retreat, Trudeau was also asked if the Canadian government was any closer to answering Ukraine’s calls for Canada to expand operation UNIFER, provide defensive weapons, and impose more sanctions on Russia.

“I'm sure there will be more announcements to come,” the prime minister said.

Asked how much longer Canada needs to weigh Ukraine’s other requests, Trudeau said it’s going to be a topic of discussion at cabinet meetings over the next few days.

“This is something that matters deeply to us,” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that Canada should be providing military assistance “in any way our Ukrainian allies feel is helpful,” as well as further sanctions.

“We need to send things that can help Ukraine stand up towards this aggression… If our Ukrainian allies need more, need things to actually repel an attack or save lives, we should provide what equipment we can,” O’Toole said in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play.

Asked whether he thinks it’s time for Canadian diplomats to leave, O’Toole said that if Global Affairs Canada cannot assure their safety, then Canada “should look at plans to make sure that we can help our staff on the ground, but also Canadians that may be at risk there.” 



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