Politics

Ottawa has secured exit routes for Canadians still in Ukraine, minister's office says

The federal government says it has secured escape routes through four neighbouring countries to allow Canadians to evade a Russian military incursion into Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says the 'threat is real and imminent’

Russian servicemen drive tanks during military exercises in the Leningrad Region of Russia in this photo released February 14, 2022. (Russian Defence Ministry/Reuters)

The federal government says it has secured escape routes through four neighbouring countries to allow Canadians to evade any Russian military incursion into Ukraine.

The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the minister has obtained assurances from her counterparts in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia that Canadians fleeing Ukraine will be able to enter without hindrance.

Ottawa is also in discussions with Moldova to ensure that its borders are open to Canadians, her office said.

"We know that Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. The threat is real and imminent," said Joly in a media statement.

"I have read President Putin's words regarding his intentions. I call on Russia to show evidence of this de-escalation and to engage in diplomatic discussions. Any further invasion of Ukraine will have swift and serious consequences, including coordinated economic sanctions."

As tensions rise between Kyiv and Moscow, Ottawa has been urging Canadians to make arrangements to leave.

About 800 Canadian nationals have formally reported their presence on Ukrainian soil. Government officials said they believe there are many more.

'I follow my guts,' says Canadian still in Ukraine

Mike O'Leary, a Canadian who has lived in Ukraine for seven years and works in the medical field, said he's not overly concerned by the escalation of tensions.

The 34-year-old is based in the west of the country in the city of Lviv, far from the conflict zone.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly listens to a Canadian instructor's report during her visit to a National Guard base close to Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. (The Associated Press)

"It's very calm. Everyone is just going about their daily lives," he said.

O'Leary said that even if an invasion starts, he'll wait to see whether the Russian military reaches western Ukraine.

If that happens, he said, he'll flee for Poland — the Polish border is about 80 kilometres from his home — or Hungary.

"I follow my guts. When it's time to go and I feel it, I'll go," said O'Leary.

Last weekend, Canada withdrew its military training troops from Ukraine after the United States and the United Kingdom shut down their own training courses.

With files from Marie Chabot-Johnson

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