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Trudeau says Canada fears armed conflict in Ukraine as Russia ramps up aggression


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is once again condemning mounting aggression from Russia against Ukraine, indicating that Canada fears the situation could dissolve into armed conflict.

Trudeau said Russia’s military buildup at various regions along the border is “absolutely unacceptable” and that Canada is ready to proceed with “serious consequences” should the situation further escalate.

“We do fear an armed conflict in Ukraine. We’re very worried about the position of the Russian government, what they’re saying and the fact that they’re sending soldiers to the Ukrainian border. This is a concern shared by our allies around the world,” he said, speaking in French.

Trudeau held a call with key ministers on the file on Tuesday evening, including Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly who is meeting with top officials in Ukraine this week.

He reiterated that Canada continues to support the Ukrainian armed forces and national guard in training exercises through Operation UNIFIER.

The mission is expected to expire in March 2022 and when asked if the government would announce an extension, Trudeau said only that the operation is a “continued commitment.”

The U.K. and the U.S. have begun sending defence weaponry to Ukraine in response to direct requests. The Canadian government has said they are very aware of needs and will make a decision about this level of support in a “timely manner.”

The prime minister instead doubled down on Canada’s diplomatic approach, working with allies to find a resolution.

“We’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage to ensure that Russia respects the people of Ukraine, respects their choice to choose their governments and their direction,” he said.

“We will always be there for the people of Ukraine.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with Ukrainian officials about the situation.

There, Blinken said Russia had plans to boost its military presence of some 100,000 troops along the border and suggested that number could double soon. Blinken also said he would not be presenting a formal written response to Russia's demands when he meets on Friday with Russia's foreign minister.

Russia objects to Ukraine’s desire to join NATO and is calling on members to reject new treaty membership.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed claims that enhanced military presence at the Ukrainian border indicates an imminent full-scale attack.

Joly is set to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday.

A handful of Liberal MPs penned a letter to Government House Leader Mark Holland requesting an urgent debate on the Ukraine situation as it would provide an opportunity for “members of Parliament of all parties to discuss Canada’s and the international community’s response to this crisis.”

Holland responded saying he will prioritize the request when the House returns, which is scheduled for Jan. 31.

The Conservatives have criticized the Liberals for not taking a harder line with Russia, and have called on the government to send lethal weapons to Ukraine for defence purposes. Meanwhile, the NDP have endorsed a non-militarized approach.

With a file from The Associated Press




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