The U.S. State Department on Sunday ordered the families of American diplomats and embassy personnel in Ukraine to leave the country, amid mounting fears of a Russian invasion.
According to a press statement put out by the State Department, non-essential staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv were told they could also leave Ukraine at the government’s expense.
State Department officials noted that the embassy will continue to operate without interruption and the exit of families and non-essential staffers is not an evacuation.
The statement added that the move does not change the U.S. government’s commitment to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and Washington will continue to provide assistance to Kyiv.
The State Department did not say how many Americans it believes are currently in Ukraine, noting that U.S. citizens are not required to register with embassies.
The statement, however, warned that the U.S. government will not be in a position to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine if Russia decides to invade the country and asked them to plan accordingly.
“We continue to pursue the path of diplomacy. But if Russia chooses further escalation, then the security conditions…are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. We are taking this action now because of Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine,” a State Department’s statement added.
Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, a number that according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken could be doubled in a short period of time. Recently, Russia has also moved forces into Belarus, which borders Moscow to the north, claiming it is part of a regular military exercise. In an effort to ease tensions, Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, where both sides agreed to continue talks after the U.S. delivers a written response to Russian demands. On Sunday, Blinken rebuffed calls of immediate sanctions against Russia, warning that such a move could undercut the ongoing negotiations.
According to a New York Times report, President Joe Biden is considering deploying thousands of troops, several warships and military aircraft to NATO allies in Eastern Europe. Options being discussed by the president include the deployment of between 1,000 to 5,000 troops to the region with option to raise that number tenfold if tension flares up further.
US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount (Associated Press)