The US government on Sunday ordered the families of US diplomats stationed in Kiev to leave the country “due to the continuing threat of a Russian military operation” and advised Americans against traveling to Russia.
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Local staff and non-essential staff can leave the Kyiv embassy if they wish, the State Department said in a statement.
US nationals residing in Ukraine “should now consider” leaving the country by commercial flights or other means of transportation, adds the US State Department.
“The security situation, including along Ukraine’s borders, in Russian-occupied Crimea, and in Russian-controlled Donetsk, is unpredictable and could deteriorate at any time,” the State Department said.
“U.S. nationals in Ukraine should be aware that a Russian military operation anywhere in Ukraine would seriously affect the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services, including assistance to U.S. citizens departing Ukraine,” warns the American diplomacy.
The department is calling on the American community in Ukraine to educate themselves on “what the U.S. government can and cannot do to assist you during a crisis abroad.”
“We believe a Russian invasion… could happen at any moment,” a senior US official told reporters. “The United States would not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in this scenario.”
The embassy remains open and the Chargé d’Affaires Kristina Kvien “remains in Ukraine”, added this official who requested anonymity.
She declined to specify the number of Americans on Ukrainian soil, but US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland had put their number at between 10,000 and 15,000 in early December.
The US government has also advised US nationals not to travel to Russia “due to tension at the border with Ukraine”.
The ministry justified this decision in particular by “the possibility of harassment of American citizens”, in particular by the Russian police, and “arbitrary application of local laws”.
“Due to the increased Russian military presence and ongoing military exercises in areas bordering Ukraine, U.S. citizens who are in the Russian Federation districts bordering Ukraine should be aware that the situation along of the border is unpredictable and that the tension increases”, specifies the ministry.
“Given the volatility of the situation, overland travel from Russia to Ukraine in this region is strongly discouraged for US citizens,” he concludes.
The State Department is also advising against all travel to Ukraine due to the possibility of a Russian invasion, but Ukraine was already discouraged for American travelers due to COVID.
The United States had already warned on Saturday that it did not plan to organize an evacuation of its nationals in Ukraine, inviting Americans in the country to use commercial flights.
Westerners accuse Russia of having deployed more than 100,000 soldiers on the borders of Ukraine to prepare an invasion of this former Soviet republic. The White House has warned that Russia could launch its offensive “at any time”.
The Kremlin denies any belligerent intention but conditions a de-escalation on treaties guaranteeing the non-enlargement of NATO, in particular to Ukraine, and a withdrawal from the Atlantic Alliance in Eastern Europe.