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US cuts Ukrainian embassy presence as war fears rise

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WASHINGTON (AP) The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all U.S. personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told dependents of staff at the US Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. He also said non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid growing tensions over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border, which were not eased during Friday’s talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei. Lavrov in Geneva.

Over 100,000 Russian troops are deployed around the Ukrainian border. At a press conference with reporters Sunday night, senior State Department officials said they were taking the steps out of an abundance of caution.

While officials say the Biden administration does not yet know if Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to attack Ukraine, he is building military capacity along Ukraine’s borders to ensure that option is ready at a moment’s notice. . And that’s the backdrop to those decisions that were made.

We want American citizens in Ukraine to know that security conditions, particularly along the Ukrainian border in Russian-occupied Crimea, and in Russia, control eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate without notice, a senior State Department official said. We want American citizens in Ukraine to be aware of their planning goals. This Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would have serious implications for the ability of US embassies to provide consular services, including assistance to US citizens leaving Ukraine.

Senior State Department officials have repeatedly declined to say how many US citizens are in Ukraine, stressing that US citizens are not required to register.

The United States government will not be able to evacuate American citizens in such an event, a senior State Department official said. So we want American citizens currently in Ukraine to plan accordingly, including availing themselves of the business options they choose for the country.

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State Department officials stressed that the Kyiv embassy will remain open and the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been considered for some time and does not reflect an easing of US support for Ukraine, the officials said.

The United States will continue to provide assistance to Ukraine, a senior State Department official said.

We are assisting Ukraine with comprehensive new defensive security assistance, including ammunition for Ukraine’s frontline defenders, the official said. The first of several shipments for the Ukrainian armed forces totaling $200 million arrived on January 22. Yesterday, and others will arrive in the weeks to come with his new authorization. The United States has committed more than $650 million for security assistance to Ukraine over the past year, and more than $2.7 billion in total for security assistance to United States to Ukraine since 2014.

More than 14,000 Ukrainians have died since Russia annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of aggravating tensions around Ukraine through disinformation.

The State Department added: Security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russian-occupied Crimea, and in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate without notice. Demonstrations, sometimes violent, occur regularly throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.

The departments’ travel advisory, which had warned against travel to Ukraine due to COVID-19 as well as tensions over Russia, was amended on Sunday to carry a stronger warning.

Do not travel to Ukraine due to increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise extra caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas are at increased risk, the department said.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and journalist who was formerly a military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM, and SOF in detail among many other topics.

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2/ https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2022/01/23/us-draws-down-ukraine-embassy-presence-as-war-fears-mount/

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