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Canada Joins Allies In Cutting Embassy Personnel, Shifting Troops In Ukraine

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand arrives in Kyiv on January 30.
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand arrives in Kyiv on January 30.

Canada says it will shift its military forces in Ukraine westward and will temporarily pull out nonessential Canadian employees at its Kyiv embassy, joining other Western countries in taking precautions amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

"We will continue to take all precautions necessary to keep our Canadian armed forces safe and secure," Defense Minister Anita Anand told a Kyiv news conference on January 30.

She said Canadian forces "have moved west of the Dnieper River," which runs through the center of Ukraine.

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Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and heavy weapons near the border of Ukraine, which has fought a seven-year war against Moscow-backed separatists in its east since Russia occupied and annexed Crimea in 2014.

The United States and Western allies fear the moves are a prelude to a new military incursion into Ukraine. Moscow denies that it is planning to invade Ukraine.

Canada has about 200 troops in Ukraine as part of a military training and capacity-building mission, according to a government website.

On the diplomatic side, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said it will temporarily withdraw nonessential Canadian employees and remaining dependents from its embassy in Kyiv but that the facility will remain open.

"As we continue to closely monitor the situation, our highest priority remains the safety and security of Canadians," the ministry said.

"Our officials stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens, as required," it added.

Canada said last week it would send experts in security, conflict management, democratic reform, and consular services to the embassy to reinforce the staff.

"Together, they will increase our diplomatic capacity and allow us to continue to assess and respond to the evolving situation in support of Ukraine," it said.

On January 24, the U.S. State Department ordered the families of diplomats working at the U.S. Embassy to leave Ukraine because of the threat of military action from Russia. The State Department also recommended that U.S. citizens not travel to the country.

Britain has also decided to remove some embassy staff and family members from Ukraine due to the "growing threat from Russia."

Australia and Germany also said they would withdraw some family members of embassy personnel.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, AFP, and Reuters
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