Canadian troops moved west of the Dnieper River as Russia threatened to invade Ukraine

By Sarah Turnbull

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OTTAWA (CTV Network) — Canadian troops deployed in Ukraine have moved west of the Dnieper River amid growing fears of a Russian invasion, Defense Minister Anita Anand has confirmed.

Speaking Monday in Kyiv, Ukraine, Anand said the safety and security of the Canadian Armed Forces remained his top priority, which prompted the decision.

“We are constantly monitoring the development and the worrying situation and have taken the decision to move troops in this regard,” she told reporters.

Canada has 200 troops stationed in Ukraine under the Operation UNIFIER banner, who are there to train the Ukrainian Armed Forces and National Guard.

Heading west of the river and away from the Russian border where more than 100,000 troops have gathered is apparently safer in the event of an invasion.

Anand met with his Ukrainian counterpart on Monday to discuss how Canada can help with other de-escalation mechanisms to discourage Russian advancement.

“We have discussed a number of forms of assistance and it would be prudent, in light of the very intense and sensitive security situation at the moment, that I first discuss this with my cabinet counterparts and with the prime minister before making formal decisions or announcements on what was discussed,” she said.

The United Nations Security Council is also meeting on Monday to discuss Russia’s military buildup on the border.

The session kicks off more high-level diplomacy this week. Talks between the United States and Russia have so far failed to ease tensions in the crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are due to speak by phone on Tuesday, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Back in Canada, MPs will hold a debate Monday evening on the situation and Canada’s response. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend virtually, after contracting COVID-19.

“I will talk about the importance of freedom, democracy and the rule of law in the face of Russian provocation, in this difficult time, more than ever. We must stay true to our values,” Trudeau said Monday.

Canadians got their first taste of what that debate might look like during Question Period.

Conservative MP and Foreign Affairs Critic Michael Chong has called on the government not to send lethal weapons to Ukraine as it has requested and as other allies have done.

“Diplomacy that is not backed by credible threats of the use of military force is nothing more than empty words and rhetoric. Canada should join our other democratic allies in working multilaterally with our NATO partners to accede to Ukraine’s request,” he said.

“When will this government stop being so naïve about its foreign policy?

In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly touted the recent expansion and extension of Operation UNIFIER for three years and the $120 million loan to support the Ukrainian economy.

NATO allies promise swift and severe sanctions against Russia if they carry out an attack.

With an Associated Press file

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