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Many Canadians still need to leave Ukraine as Russian threats mount: official

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says possible invasion could include ‘rapid assault’ on Kyiv' Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says possible invasion could include ‘rapid assault’ on Kyiv
WATCH: Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says possible invasion could include ‘rapid assault’ on Kyiv – Feb 11, 2022

A senior government official has indicated to Global News Friday that the Canadian government is very concerned about Canadians who have not yet left Ukraine and are urging them to leave now.

According to the official, the numbers they are seeing of Canadians leaving are nowhere near the number that is in Ukraine.

“Since February 1, we have been urging Canadians to avoid all travel to Ukraine because of the ongoing Russian threats and the risk of armed conflict,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly in a statement released Friday.

“We have also been asking Canadians already in Ukraine to leave while commercial means are still available. Our highest priority remains the safety and security of Canadians,” she added.

Read more: Trudeau warns of ‘severe costs’ for Russia as U.S. reports say Ukraine invasion likely

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Both the U.S. and U.K. have urged their citizens as well to leave Ukraine immediately. U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said a departure should happen in the next 24-48 hours, at most.

“If you stay, you are assuming risk,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Canada is “standing firm” with Western nations and is prepared to impose “severe costs” if Russia decides to invade Ukraine.

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.

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says Putin could invade during Olympics' Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says Putin could invade during Olympics
Russia-Ukraine standoff: U.S. says Putin could invade during Olympics – Feb 11, 2022

Russia has been building up its forces near Ukraine, with well over 100,000 troops lined along the border.

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“Our diplomatic and consular staff remain on the ground and stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens as required. However, our ability to do so could become severely limited,” said Joly.

She’s also urging all Canadians in Ukraine to sign up with the Government of Canada’s Registration of Canadians Abroad service so that the ministry can directly notify them of changes to the situation and share crucial information on help available to them.

— with files from Global’s Rachel Gilmore and Alex Boutilier 

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