06/14/2017 03:10 EDT | Updated 06/20/2017 19:58 EDT

Federal Government Eases Restrictions On Military Mission In Ukraine

Canada first deployed about 200 troops to Ukraine in the summer of 2015.

A Canadian military instructor looks on during Ukrainian military exercises at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, near Lviv, on July 12, 2016. / AFP / Yuriy Dyachyshyn (Photo credit should read YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images)

OTTAWA — The military has quietly expanded its footprint in Ukraine, with commanders being given free rein to send their troops anywhere — except where they might run into Russian forces or separatist rebels.

Canada first deployed about 200 troops to Ukraine in the summer of 2015 to help train government forces in their fight against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.

But the Canadians were required to stay in the western half of Ukraine, far from the conflict that has continued to rage over the intervening two years, leaving more than 10,000 people dead.

Mission set to expire in 2019

Those restrictions were eased when the government extended the mission for another two years in March, the mission's commander, Lt.-Col. Mark Lubiniecki, tells The Canadian Press.

While Canadian troops are still required to stay away from the border with Russia and the fighting in eastern Ukraine, Lubiniecki says the rest of the country is fair game.

Lubiniecki says that change has added flexibility to the Canadian mission, which has so far trained more than 4,000 Ukrainian troops, many of whom have since been deployed into the conflict zone.

The training mission is set to expire in 2019.

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