The US State Department ordered all American workers in the US Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country on Sunday, in a strong action amid rising fears of a Russian invasion. It further stated that non-essential embassy personnel could be allowed to depart Ukraine at the expense of the government.
The action comes amid escalating tensions over Russia’s military buildup near the Ukrainian border, which were not alleviated during Friday talks in Geneva between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The embassy in Kyiv will remain open, according to State Department officials, and the announcement does not imply an evacuation. The decision had been in the works for some time and does not signal a waning of US support for Ukraine, according to sources.
The State Department issued a statement citing recent rumours that Russia was considering major military action against Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, has accused NATO members of using disinformation to inflame tensions in Ukraine.
“Security situations, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine,” the State Department continued, “are unpredictable and may rise without warning.” Demonstrations, some of which have become violent, are held often throughout Ukraine, especially in Kyiv.”
The Department of State’s travel alert, which previously advised against visiting Ukraine due to COVID-19 and tensions with Russia, was updated on Sunday to include a stronger caution.
“Because of growing Russian military threats and COVID-19, do not visit to Ukraine.” Due to criminal activity and civic upheaval in Ukraine, proceed with caution. “Some regions are at a higher risk,” according to the government.
The travel advisory for Russia was also changed, saying, “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing border tensions with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against US citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”
The State Department refused to reveal how many Americans it believes are now in Ukraine. When arriving in a foreign country or planning to stay for a lengthy period of time, US citizens are not needed to register with embassies.