Canada is “standing firm” with Western nations and is prepared to impose “severe costs” if Russia decides to invade Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
His comment came in the wake of reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine — and has communicated that decision to the Russian military.
“We’re all concerned that Russia is continuing to build up its troop presence and looking actively for excuses to act. Instead, Russia must de-escalate,” Trudeau said.
“This is an evolving situation, but the bottom line is this: we’re not seeking confrontation with Russia, but we’re resolved to stand firm with the Ukrainian people’s right to determine their own future.”
Russia has been building up its forces near Ukraine, with well over 100,000 troops lined along the border. While French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to Putin in Moscow this week, said Putin had pledged not to further escalate the tensions, reports suggest the Russian leader may have changed his mind.
Speaking at a Friday media briefing, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned an invasion “could begin at any time.”
“I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information, but I do want to be clear: it could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics,” he said.
“We are ready either way.”
A reporter with PBS, Nick Schifrin, tweeted on Friday afternoon that “The US believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.”
As tensions have continued to escalate, countries have been urging their citizens to return home.
The U.K. government took to Twitter to fire out an all-caps warning to its citizens in Ukraine, urging them to “leave now.” Canada has issued a similar warning to its citizens, telling them to “avoid all travel to Ukraine” due to the ongoing threats from Russia.
“If you are in Ukraine, you should leave while commercial means are available,” Canada’s advisory adds.
Sullivan issued the same warning to Americans, asking them to leave Ukraine “as soon as possible,” urging that this departure should happen — at most — in the next 24-48 hours.
“If you stay, you are assuming risk,” he said.
Should Putin make good on the alleged threat and invade Ukraine, Trudeau said the government has a number of tools at their disposal that they will be prepared to deploy.
“The West is standing firm together, coordinated, and ready to impose severe costs, including sanctions, if Russia invades Ukraine once again,” he said.
“We’re also strengthening our support and presence through NATO, and we will continue to support Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and independence and, more than anything else, continue to support the people of Ukraine.”
A Ukrainian defence ministry memo, written last week and obtained by Global News, suggests that the Russian massing of troops along their border is “far larger than is justified by any reasonable defensive requirements.”
“For this reason, Ukraine has no choice but to presume Russia has malicious intentions,” the document reads.
“In the event of a Russian attack on any front, from Russia, Belarus, occupied Crimea or by sea, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will do everything in their power to repel the invaders from Ukrainian territory and protect the Ukrainian population.”
The document, which includes detailed numbers about Russian troop deployments and recent military exercises, suggests the Kremlin has intensified cyber attacks on Ukrainian government institutions in recent weeks.
The document also suggests that Russia might take a series of “hybrid” warfare measures to weaken the government in Kyiv, including:
- Ceasing Russian gas transit through Ukraine.
- Ceasing coal exports to Ukraine,
- Directing Belarus to ban the export of petroleum products to Ukraine.
- Increasing “information operations” to undermine “confidence in the leadership of the state, as well as reducing confidence in the United States, NATO, and the EU.
- Intensifying cyber attacks on critical infrastructure