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HomeWorldU.S. tells Americans to flee Ukraine and evacs embassy staff

U.S. tells Americans to flee Ukraine and evacs embassy staff

The U.S. has begun evacuating its embassy in Kyiv as fears mount over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The State Department said Saturday that almost all of its 200 staff based in Kyiv will be required to leave “due to the continued threat of Russian military action,” as the U.S. continues to work “intensively” to prevent Ukraine from becoming a war zone. The embassy will keep a small number of “core” diplomats in Kyiv and will maintain a small consular service in Lviv, which is further away from a potential conflict zone.



“Now these developments mean for private American citizens that it isn’t just time to leave Ukraine. It is past time for private citizens to leave Ukraine,” a senior State Department official said on Saturday. “We have no higher priority than the safety and security of our fellow citizens, including our fellow U.S. government employees. And we do a great deal to provide support for our fellow citizens, but as you know, there are real limits to what we are able to do in a war zone.”

The State Department official wouldn’t confirm the number of staff members who will stay behind in Ukraine for security reasons, but said their focus will be on working with the Ukrainian government and collecting valuable information for senior leaders and the Biden administration. The majority of embassy staff departing Kyiv will return to the United States and continue their work on Ukraine, the official said, while others may be based in neighboring countries depending on how things unfold.

Saturday’s evacuation order follows a series of warning signs on Friday, from Biden administration officials saying an invasion could happen before the conclusion of the Olympics on Feb. 20 and the Pentagon sending 3,000 more troops to Poland.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday morning from Camp David.

Family members of U.S. embassy staff had already been ordered to depart Kyiv, but the State Department had left it up to nonessential staff if they wanted to leave.

The State Department again on Saturday urged Americans to evacuate Ukraine through private and commercial means, warning that the government would not be able to help U.S. citizens leave if Russia moves forward with military action.

“Our ability to help them through that crisis, during that crisis, is going to be extremely limited, and they cannot have any reasonable expectation that the U.S. government is going to be able to rescue them if they find themselves in harm’s way in a war zone,” a senior State Department official said.

In the past 24 hours, multiple other countries — including Israel, Germany and the U.K. — have been encouraging their citizens to leave and reducing their diplomatic presence. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Saturday that Russia intends to “optimize” its embassy staff in Ukraine — an indication Moscow, too, was reducing its diplomatic presence in Ukraine for now.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday, reiterating that “a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open” if Moscow decided to deescalate and engage in diplomatic discussions.

“He reiterated that should Moscow pursue the path of aggression and further invade Ukraine, it would result in a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response,” the readout said.

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