Canadian special forces operators have been deployed to Ukraine amid growing tensions between the NATO military alliance and Russia, Global News has learned.
The deployment of a small contingent of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment comes as diplomatic talks aimed at averting armed conflict in Ukraine have failed and an estimated 100,000 Russian troops are still camped out on the Ukrainian border.
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Sources told Global News that the Canadian special operations presence was part of an attempt by NATO allies to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine and identify ways to help the Ukrainian government.
The unit has also been tasked with helping develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion, sources said.
Neither the government nor the Canadian Forces officially confirmed the presence of special forces in Ukraine when contacted by Global News, other than to say that special forces operators were involved in the assistance more wide from Canada to Ukraine.
“(The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command) is part of the broader efforts of the Armed Forces to support the Ukrainian Security Forces,” wrote Major Amber Bineau, spokesperson for the Special Operations Command, in a statement. at Global News.
Bineau noted that Canadian special forces have been providing training, as well as “instructor and leadership expertise,” to their Ukrainian counterparts since 2020 – although sources told Global News that the last special forces contingent, left for Ukraine around January 9, does not conduct training.
Russia denies US allegations that it is preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine
Diplomatic talks between the United States, European allies and Russia ended last week without a clear path to defuse tensions along the Ukraine-Russia border. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the talks a “dead end”.
In a statement on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said NATO and the United States remained committed to a diplomatic solution and urged Russia to reduce its operations on the Ukrainian border. But the United States has also warned that Russia could seek a pretext to invade Ukraine if diplomatic talks fail, including engaging in false flag operations to precipitate conflict.
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The Kremlin has denied the US accusations.
Russia has demanded a guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance – a request that US and NATO officials have flatly rejected.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly left Sunday for a week-long visit to Kiev and bilateral meetings to reaffirm Ottawa’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
“The buildup of Russian troops and equipment in and around Ukraine jeopardizes security across the region,” Joly said in a statement.
“These aggressive actions must be discouraged. Canada will work with its international partners to uphold the rules-based international order and preserve the human rights and dignity of Ukrainians.
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Canada has consistently supported Kiev in its relations with Russia since Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. According to the Canadian government, Ottawa has committed approximately $700 million in aid to Ukraine since January 2014, including the provision of non-lethal military equipment and sending rotations of 200 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers every six months to train the Ukrainian security forces.
Opposition Conservatives have urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to reject Putin’s demands, but instead “stand side by side” with Ukraine and Canada’s European allies.
Aural Braun, a professor of international relations at the University of Toronto, said in an interview Monday that while Canada’s support “makes a difference,” the central Western actor around the negotiating table is the states. -United.
“A lot depends on what Americans are doing,” said Braun, who is also associated with Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
Braun said Canada and its allies must continue to support Ukraine — not only militarily, but also economically and diplomatically — because Russia’s goal is to isolate Kiev and present the Ukraine as a failed democratic experiment.
“What Mr. Putin fears is a prosperous Ukraine, because if there were a prosperous democratic state emerging on (Russia’s) borders…it would present an alternative vision to the type of ultra-nationalist kleptocracy that plagues Russia. inside Russia itself,” Braun said. noted.
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On Friday, Canada’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Morgan met with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to pledge to “maintain close coordination to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine”. .
According to US officials, Morgan also agreed that “a new Russian invasion of Ukraine would entail massive consequences and significant costs, including coordinated restrictive economic measures for the Russian Federation.”
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