Politics

Canada withdrawing families of diplomatic staff in Ukraine as tensions rise

The Canadian government says it's withdrawing the family members of diplomatic staff stationed in Ukraine amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks

A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea on Jan. 18. Russia has concentrated an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons near Ukraine in what the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion. (The Associated Press)

The Canadian government says it's withdrawing the family members of diplomatic staff stationed in Ukraine amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

"The safety and security of Canadians, our personnel and their families at our missions abroad is our top priority," said Global Affairs Canada in a statement.

"Due to the ongoing Russian military buildup and destabilizing activities in and around Ukraine, we have decided to temporarily withdraw Canadian embassy staff's children under 18 years of age and family members accompanying them."

The move comes a few days after the  United States and the U.K. recalled the families of their embassy staffers.

Russia has denied it is planning an assault, but has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks.

 'Extremely concerned about the Russian aggression'

When asked about embassy staff and their families during a news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said contingency plans are in place.

"We are extremely concerned about the Russian aggression and the ongoing threat of further invasion into Ukraine," he said.

"The safety of Canadian diplomats and their families is, of course, paramount, and we will continue to be there for Ukraine and ensure the safety of Canadians and Ukrainians. 

Ukraine's leaders have attempted to project calm and dispel fears an invasion is imminent, while the United States and its NATO allies are preparing for conflict.

On Monday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the situation was "under control," while Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Russia's armed forces had not formed what he called battle groups, "which would have indicated that tomorrow they would launch an offensive."

That same day, NATO outlined a series of potential troop and ship deployments, with the U.S. saying it has ordered 8,500 troops to be on alert .

With files from The Associated Press

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