US State Department orders embassy staff families to leave Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine - The US State Department has ordered all family members of diplomats and non-emergency personnel at the US embassy in Kyiv to leave Ukraine.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited the US embassy in Kyiv on January 19.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited the US embassy in Kyiv on January 19.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Due to "the continued threat of Russian military action," US citizens in Ukraine "should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options," the US State Department said in an updated travel advisory issued Sunday evening.

"Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk," the Level 4 advisory reads further.

A senior State Department official spoke of "precautionary measures" in a conference call with reporters.

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The State Department did not say how many staff members in the US embassy would be affected by the changes.

When asked about the timing of the decision, the State Department referred to the warning from the White House last week that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time. Moscow has repeatedly rejected this notion.

US citizens were also advised not to travel to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea or the pro-Russian breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Britain also began withdrawing embassy staff on Monday morning, citing "the growing threat from Russia."

The European Union's representatives, on the other hand, will stay put for now. The EU has a delegation in Ukraine, but member states also have their own national embassies.

"We are not going to do the same thing because we don't know any specific reasons," top diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, adding that it wasn't necessary to "dramatize" the situation as long as talks with Moscow continue.

Kyiv also criticized the embassy reductions as overly cautious and "premature."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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