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Canada orders diplomats' families to leave Ukraine

The Canadian government has ordered family members of diplomatic staff in Ukraine to leave the country, though embassy staff will remain in place.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said that the government has decided to “temporarily withdraw” the children of embassy staff if they are under the age of 18, as well as family members accompanying them.

“Officials at Global Affairs Canada and at the Embassy of Canada to Ukraine in Kyiv will continue to closely monitor the situation,” reads the statement. "The safety and security of Canadians, our personnel and their families at our missions abroad is our top priority.”

The decision to extricate diplomats’ families is due to “the ongoing Russian military buildup and destabilizing activities in and around Ukraine.”

Late Monday night Canada updated its travel advisory suggesting any non-essential Canadians should leave Ukraine.

“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.

“You just have to look at the pictures to know that this is a situation in which you don't want Canadians to be going there, and Canadians that are there should think about getting out,” said Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat and vice president of Canadian Global Affairs Institute in an interview on CTV News Channel. “You only leave the most vital people because if things go badly, then you've got that many more people to worry about.”

This comes after the U.S. and the U.K. began withdrawing some of their embassy and diplomatic staff and their families from Ukraine over the weekend, amid heightened concerns of a Russian invasion. 

Asked Monday whether Canada would follow suit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was non-committal, telling reporters that there are “many contingency plans in place” to keep Canadian diplomats and their families safe.

Andriy Schevchenko, a former Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, said in an interview on CTV News Channel that while right now there is “calm” in Kyiv, the potential of a Russian incursion is “an existential threat.”

Now into its second day of a three-day retreat, the federal cabinet is discussing what further support and assistance Canada will be sending to Ukraine.

In addition to the Canadian offer of a $120 million sovereign loan last week, Ukraine has been calling for Canada to expand operation UNIFER, provide defensive weapons, and impose more sanctions on Russia.

Ahead of coming decisions about aid, Canadian politicians have been vocalizing their support for Ukraine and are calling for Russia to de-escalate and withdraw the estimated 100,000 armed troops that have been positioned at Ukrainian borders.

On Tuesday, NATO announced it would be putting forces on standby and sending ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe, “reinforcing Allied deterrence and defence as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine.” 

Robertson said that based on the way allied countries are responding he thinks Canada should anticipate Russian President Vladimir Putin will send his forces across the border.

“I think we should be providing arms, if we've got some, to Ukraine. We've spent the last seven or eight years training people, my gosh, you know, why would we not now provide them? Not because we want them to use it, because it will act as a bit more or a deterrent,” said Robertson. 

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michel Chong, opposition deputy whip James Bezan, and public services and procurement critic Pierre Paul-Hus issued a statement Tuesday echoing the call for the government to send weapons.

“The governments of the U.S., U.K., Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, and others have already provided lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. Prime Minister Trudeau has not,” reads the statement.

“That is why Canada’s Conservatives are again calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to immediately provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, including the weapons originally destined for the Kurdish Peshmerga.”

Ottawa had pledged to send nearly $10 million worth of military equipment to Kurdish security forces in 2016 to fight Islamic militants in Iraq. After objections from the Iraqi government, the shipment was sidelined and has since been stored at a Canadian Forces supply depot in Montreal.



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