Trudeau says he fears armed conflict in Ukraine, but remains coy about what Canada will do

“We are there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage to ensure that Russia respects the Ukrainian people,” Trudeau said.

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he fears an armed conflict is looming in Ukraine, but declined to say what Canada would do to help stop Russian troops from marching on Kiev.

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The situation has led to a flurry of diplomatic activity, as Western governments aim to stop Russia, which has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. Trudeau said the risk of war was high and Russia would face consequences if it invaded.

“We are working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursions into Ukraine are absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “We are there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage to ensure that Russia respects the Ukrainian people.”

Trudeau on Tuesday convened a meeting of several of his ministers on the situation, including Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly who met with the Ukrainian president on Tuesday. He issued a statement saying that Canada is committed to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia could launch another attack on Ukraine “at very short notice”, but Washington would pursue diplomacy as long as it could, even if it didn’t. was not sure what Moscow really wanted.

“I guess he will move in,” US President Joe Biden said of Putin at a press conference on Wednesday. “He has to do something.

“Russia will be held responsible if it invades – and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight over what to do and what not to do, etc. Biden said. “But if they actually do what they are capable of doing…it will be a disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine any further.”

  1. Canadian instructors from Joint Task Force - Ukraine provide security advice and support to Ukrainian soldiers in Starychi, Ukraine on March 3, 2017.

    Canada sends small detachment of special forces to Ukraine amid tensions with Russia: report

  2. Mykola, a Ukrainian soldier from the 56th Brigade, poses for a portrait in a trench on the frontline on January 18, 2022 in Pisky, Ukraine.

    Ukrainian intelligence says 127,000 Russian troops are preparing for an invasion near the border

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During a visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, Blinken, the top US diplomat, said Ukrainians should prepare for difficult days. He said Washington would continue to provide defense aid and renewed a promise of tough sanctions against Russia in the event of an invasion.

During a visit to Kiev on Wednesday, the head of US diplomacy said that Ukrainians must prepare for difficult days. He said Washington would continue to provide defense aid and renewed a promise of tough sanctions against Russia in the event of an invasion.

He said a Russian rally of tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders was taking place without “provocation, for no reason”.

“We know that there are plans in place to increase this force even further at very short notice, and that gives President (Vladimir) Putin the ability, also at very short notice, to take further aggressive action against the Ukraine,” he said.

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Blinken is due to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday to try to negotiate a solution. Russia has already called for Ukraine not to be allowed to join NATO and for the alliance to withdraw from Eastern European countries.

Canada has 200 soldiers in Ukraine, far from the border, training the country’s army and nearly 1,000 other soldiers in Latvia as part of a NATO mission.

Trudeau’s mandate letter to Defense Minister Anita Anand directed him to extend the mission in Ukraine, which is currently set to end in March. But Trudeau did not provide any details about the extension on Wednesday.

“It’s an ongoing commitment that we have and when there’s an announcement to be made on the expansion, we will,” he said.

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Britain has started shipping anti-tank weapons to Ukraine to bolster the country’s military. Trudeau would not say if Canada would follow suit.

“We have been there with support in different ways and we will continue to be. The decisions we make will be based on what is best for the Ukrainian people. »

The Prime Minister’s comments during a COVID-19 update in Ottawa came hours after a Royal Canadian Navy frigate set sail for the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the latest warship of this type to be deployed in the region as part of Canada’s commitments to the NATO alliance.

Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, said HMCS Montreal’s six-month deployment is part of a regular rotation of ships sent to the region to deter Russian aggression since Moscow announced invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

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Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc, accompanied by his wife Patsy, greets the crew as HMCS Montreal departs Halifax for a six-month deployment as part of a NATO mission in the Mediterranean on Wednesday 19 January 2022.
Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc, accompanied by his wife Patsy, greets the crew as HMCS Montreal departs Halifax for a six-month deployment as part of a NATO mission in the Mediterranean on Wednesday 19 January 2022. Photo by Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Several media reported that the Canadian Forces had sent special forces to Ukraine to prepare for the possibility that the Canadian embassy had to be evacuated and to prepare for the departure of the 200 soldiers.

Trudeau did not detail those plans, but said everything was being done to keep people safe.

“I can tell you that the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Foreign Service, our multilateral partners, we are all looking at a range of possibilities and contingencies to make sure we are in the best position to keep people safe.”

Tory MP James Bezan said sending more weapons to Ukraine should be an urgent priority.

“We must provide them with the defensive and lethal military weapons to protect Ukraine,” he said. “The Russian Federation is coming with heavy tanks and artillery. It’s going to be a battle on the ground and we have to give Ukraine the weapons to defend itself.

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Bezan said the government should also elaborate on the sanctions Canada would impose if Russia invades and explain how the government will use the Magnitsky Act against individual Russian officials.

“We have to make sure that Ukraine is in the strongest possible position and that Russia will pay the highest possible price,” he said.

Tom Lawson, a former general and chief of the defense staff, said Trudeau’s approach of not excluding or ruling out anything likely made sense, as did pursuing diplomacy.

Lawson said Russia views Ukraine differently than any other former Soviet state. He said there are long ties between the two countries and that Putin might be ready to be more aggressive towards Ukraine.

“I’m not an apologist for some horrible dictator of a declining superpower, but I think we should see this relationship as something different,” he said.

Lawson said Canada should continue to work within NATO to keep Russian troops within its own borders, but should not act outside of the alliance.

– with additional reporting from Reuters, The Canadian Press

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