Canada relocates military personnel out of Ukraine amid Russia threats

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TORONTO – Canada has temporarily withdrawn its Ukraine-based military personnel to an undisclosed destination in Europe, the Canadian defence ministry said on Sunday, as Western countries fear Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine.

Canada, which has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population after Ukraine and Russia, has kept a 200-strong training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.

The defence ministry said the armed forces have been relocated because of the “complex operational environment linked to Russia’s unwarranted aggression against Ukraine.”

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, which is not part of the Atlantic military alliance. Moscow denies it is planning an attack on Ukraine and has accused the West of “hysteria.”

Canada’s defence forces have trained over 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the mission would be extended by three years, at a cost of C$340 million ($268.5 million) and would result in 400 Canadian trainers being sent to Ukraine ultimately.

Canada also has temporarily moved its diplomatic staff to an office in Lviv, suspending embassy operations in Kyiv, the government said on Saturday. Washington and its European allies and others have been reducing or evacuating embassy staff and urging citizens to depart immediately or avoid travel to Ukraine.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday an invasion of Ukraine by Russia could begin “any day now”.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; editing by Grant McCool)