The military is moving troops out of Ukraine in one of the strongest signals yet that a Russian invasion is imminent.
The Ministry of Defense said soldiers who were in Ukraine on a training mission are being temporarily transferred elsewhere in Europe.
The ministry will not say where the soldiers went, or how many of them were moved for security reasons.
A ministry statement says the movement of troops out of Ukraine does not signal the end of the training mission to bolster that country’s security forces.
Instead, the department says the move gives the military time to refocus its efforts in the face of Russia’s “unwarranted aggression” against Ukraine.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said Canada remains committed to supporting the people of Ukraine and helping its security forces improve their capabilities.
She adds that the safety of Canadian Armed Forces troops is a top priority and that “this temporary repositioning will ensure the safety of Canadian personnel.”
Russia has mobilized 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and is demanding a series of concessions from the NATO military alliance, of which Canada is a member.
While Russia denied wanting a war, diplomatic talks between Moscow and the West failed to resolve the impasse and NATO leaders began to warn of a conflict in Ukraine.
The announcement of the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine comes a day after Canada closed its embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and moved its diplomatic staff to a temporary office in Lviv, in the west of the country.
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Lviv is home to a Ukrainian military base that served as the hub for Canada’s 200-soldier training mission in the former Soviet country.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Canada stands with his country.
A summary of Trudeau’s conversation with Zelenskyy provided by the Prime Minister’s Office said the Canadian leader had recommitted to imposing economic sanctions on Russia in response to an invasion of Ukraine.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 13, 2022.