Russian troop movements near Ukraine have drawn concern from Kyiv and the United States that it might be considering attacking its neighbour. Here is a look at some of the questions that raises.
WHAT ARE THE TWO SIDES SAYING ABOUT THE RISK OF CONFLICT?
Russia denies threatening anyone and says it can deploy its troops on its own territory as it pleases. It has accused Ukraine and NATO of whipping up tensions and suggested Kyiv might be preparing to try to seize back two eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Russia’s foreign spy agency this week compared the situation with the build-up to a 2008 war in which Russia’s forces crushed those of neighbouring Georgia.
Ukraine denies planning any such offensive and says Russia has more than 92,000 troops massed near its borders for a possible attack.
HOW LIKELY IS A RUSSIAN INVASION?
Reuters spoke to more than a dozen sources, including Western intelligence officials and Russians familiar with Kremlin thinking, and nearly all agreed that an invasion is unlikely to be imminent. A more plausible scenario, they said, was that President Vladimir Putin is using the credible threat of military force to signal that Russia is serious about defending its “red lines” on Ukraine. It has stated numerous times in recent weeks that it is not prepared to accept the supply of NATO weapons to Ukraine or any NATO military presence there, let alone the prospect of eventual Ukrainian membership of the alliance. Putin, these sources added, is adept at escalating and de-escalating crises – as he did in the spring, when more than 100,000 Russian troops gathered near Ukraine’s border and subsequently pulled back. In this way, he is keeping Russia’s opponents guessing about his intentions and reminding the West that Russia is a force to be reckoned with.
IF IT DID COME TO WAR, WHAT MIGHT THAT LOOK LIKE?
Russia’s armed forces have 900,000 active personnel compared with 209,000 for Ukraine, an advantage of more than four to one, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). But Samir Puri, senior fellow in hybrid warfare at the IISS, said the real advantage for Russia was that it already has proxies fighting in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine, giving it the option to link up with them and extend the area already under their control. Were it to go for a broader invasion, he said, it could contemplate attacking from the north (from Russia and its ally Belarus), from the east or from the south (via Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014), with a naval assault on the cities of Odessa and Mariupol.
HOW PREPARED IS UKRAINE TO DEFEND ITSELF?
Ukraine is significantly stronger militarily than in 2014, when it lost Crimea to Russia without a real fight. It has advanced anti-tank missiles supplied by Washington, and could draw on U.S. intelligence support. But it would still face an overwhelming adversary – the Russian advantage in battle tanks, for example, is more than three to one.
“For Ukraine, the issue would be … to resist as much as they can, pray for assistance from the West, and ultimately fight back,” said Mathieu Boulegue, a research fellow at London’s Chatham House think-tank. “If Russia invades in full, the question for Kyiv will be to mount counter-insurrection-style warfare to make the cost of invasion tremendous for Russia.”
WHAT ELSE MIGHT DETER MOSCOW?
The West imposed sanctions on Russia after the seizure of Crimea and could add painful new measures, such as preventing it from pumping Russian gas through the newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany. Putin would risk a complete rupture of relations with the West if he invaded. It is unclear how far NATO might come to the defence of Ukraine, something that would be fraught with risk for all sides. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but doing nothing would leave the alliance looking irrelevant.
“This is the brinkmanship game that is playing out. Both in NATO in Brussels and in Moscow there will be calculations around where the escalatory steps could lead. If NATO was to deploy to fight … the Russians would see this as an unbelievable escalation,” said Puri.
“Whether (Ukraine) ends up as a battleground I think is unlikely – but really that’s the issue that Russia and NATO are fencing around at the moment in Ukraine.”
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alison Williams)
BC floods: Evacuation ordered in Abbotsford area – CTV News
British Columbia says it’s prepared to use a national emergency alert system should the third in a trio of ongoing storms pose a risk to life and safety in the coming days.
Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices. B.C. has faced criticism for not using it during deadly natural disasters this year.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says provincial officials are working with local governments, First Nations and emergency managers, adding the province is prepared to use the system should a community feel there is an imminent threat.
Farnworth made the comment during a briefing on an ongoing series of storms in the province in which officials warned that the third one, due to make landfall Monday, could reach intensities similar to those that destroyed highways, flooded communities and prompted mass evacuations two weeks ago.
Armel Castellan of Environment and Climate Change Canada says there is a lot of uncertainty at this stage, and while meteorologists hope the impacts remain as low as possible, they are urging maximum caution, vigilance and readiness for a “very strong storm and swell.”
The River Forecast Centre issued a new flood warning for the Coquihalla River and says the Nooksack River in the United States is at risk of overflowing its banks late today and spilling into Sumas Prairie.
Meanwhile, a new set of evacuation orders were issued for 56 properties in the Petit Creek-Spius Creek area west of Merritt, B.C.
“We’re in the middle of one of the most intense series of storms that we have seen along coastal B.C.,” Farnworth said.
“Once again, it’s time to be ready.”
Canada's first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in Ottawa – CBC.ca
There are two confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Ottawa, the Ontario government announced Sunday.
“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.
These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had visited several countries in southern Africa over the preceding two weeks.
Those travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has provoked global concern.
Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labelled as a variant of concern. It is being linked to a rapid rise of cases in a South African province.
It is not known at this time whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, than other coronavirus variants.
“The best defence against the omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said the statement from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
The provincial government urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue following public health guidance.
“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant.”
More confirmed cases likely: health minister
In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.
“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.
“I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops.
“The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required,” it said
‘Better to be safe than sorry’
Reacting to the news, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos emphasized the lack of information the world has so far about the omicron variant, noting that some other variants failed to take hold and out-compete the dominant strain.
“While it’s important not to under-react, it’s important not to overreact. We don’t have a lot of information about whether this variant is actually more dangerous than the variants that we’ve dealt with,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network.
Still, he said it was “better to be safe than sorry” and take precautions. But he said that until there was more information, it was not necessary to radically change behaviour, so long as you are vaccinated and otherwise acting in accordance with public health guidance.
“The stuff that worked before should work now.”
WHO urges countries to keep borders open
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. It said it is studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as suggested by “preliminary evidence.”
The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure at stopping the spread of the virus. South Africa has said the travel measures are “unjustified.”
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said instituting travel bans targeted at southern Africa “attacks global solidarity.”
“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired prior to the government announcement on Sunday, WHO special adviser Dr. Peter Singer said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the variant was in Canada.
He said the United Nations agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-limited,” part of a comprehensive package, rather than the only measure taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.
“They’re definitely not a silver bullet,” he said. Singer argued the international community should not create situations that disincentive countries from being transparent about new variants.
Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and follow public health measures.
“This is a call for individuals to raise their guard. There are things individuals can do which help with any variant or any version of this virus, including omicron.”
He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources to the global vaccination campaign, saying that’s the best way to stop the spread of omicron and potential future variants.
Canada finds first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario. Here’s what we know – Globalnews.ca
Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
A statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus’ fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.
“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” read the statement Sunday.
COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges
“In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to hold a press conference on the variant’s discovery Monday morning, according to the statement.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also confirmed Canada’s first two cases in a statement Sunday evening, and said that he was working with the province’s public health officials to contact trace the cases.
“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” read Duclos’ statement.
Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern
“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.”
South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.
Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant’s high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.
Other experts were quick to point out South Africa’s low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.
COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant
Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.
Canada’s Chief Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also confirmed the detection of the new variant, and said that Canada has a “robust monitoring” system in place to detect genetic changes in the virus or new variants of concern, such as the Omicron.
“Last Friday, Canada announced additional travel measures for all travellers coming into Canada from the South African region. It is not unexpected that additional cases of this variant will be discovered in Canada,” read Tam’s statement.
A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.
The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by “early 2022” if it was necessary.
“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.
Canada’s vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.
COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says
Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada’s announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was “already here” and spreading within Canada’s borders.
On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.
The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 immunization clinics open to B.C. kids ages five to 11 today – Toronto Star
Hashtag Trending Nov. 29 – Lush leaves social media; Apple warns prosecutor of iPhone hack; man receives 3D-printed eye – IT World Canada
More Climate Technology Investment Is Needed to Get the World to Net Zero – Bloomberg
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Art14 hours ago
Year end art exhibition features 40+ local art makers – North Bay News – BayToday.ca
Tech9 hours ago
This is the BEST entry-level 4K TV Cyber Monday deal for Xbox Series X – Windows Central
Politics12 hours ago
Politics chat: U.S. bans travelers from 8 African countries to slow COVID-19 variant – NPR
Sports24 hours ago
Red Wings vs Sabres: GDU, Lineups, Keys to the Game – Winging It In Motown
Economy14 hours ago
What Holiday Shopping Stats So Far Might Tell Us About The Economy – Forbes
Media9 hours ago
Ethiopian gov’t forces in control of Chifra: State media – Aljazeera.com
Health16 hours ago
First children's vaccination clinic in Chatham fully booked – BlackburnNews.com
Health4 hours ago
COVID-19: Children between five and 11 are eligible for vaccinations starting Monday – Vancouver Sun