Canada extends, expands military training mission in Ukraine

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen greet each other as they patrol a street in Verkhnotoretske village in Yasynuvata district, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Jan. 22, 2022. Ukrainians in the country's east are likely to be on the front lines of war if it comes, but they are far from the people making decisions about their fate. (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

TORONTO (AP) — Canada is extending its mission to train Ukrainian soldiers by three years and plans to enlarge the operation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Trudeau said he has authorized the military to deploy 60 more personnel to join 200 troops already on the ground, with further capacity to increase that number up to 400. It's part of a $340 million Canadian (US$268 million ) commitment.

Trudeau said Russia is using its military might and heft to bully and threaten an independent democracy in an effort to try to get Ukraine to bow to its will.

“It’s a threat not just to Ukrainians. It is a threat to all of us who believe in the rights of citizens to elect their governments and pick the direction of their country,” Trudeau said.

“We are seeing around the world right now a back sliding of democracy, an attack on democratic principles in many different forms. But the direct threat of a Russian invasion, to take control of Ukraine, to take away the choice of Ukrainian people to chose their future ... It’s something that concerns all of us who cherish democracy.”

Trudeau said the effort also includes a provision of non-lethal equipment, intelligence sharing and support to combat cyberattacks.

The Canadian mission is intended to support Ukrainian forces so the country can defend its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, the prime minister said.

“This is not a combat mission, this is a training mission. The Canadian military will be there to advise and assist. We will continue training,” Trudeau said. “In the event of a Russian incursion or invasion into Ukraine we will ensure that Canadian military remain safe.”

Trudeau said Defense Minister Anita Anand will travel to Latvia and Ukraine to visit with Canadian soldiers in the coming days. Anand said Canada has trained over 30,000 soldiers in Ukraine.

There are more than 1.3 million people with Ukrainian origin in Canada.