Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘Leave Ukraine’: US tells American citizens, families of diplomats amid tensions

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As diplomatic talks over Ukraine fail to yield a breakthrough, and tensions with Russia deepen, the United States has ordered family members of its diplomats to leave Ukraine, and advised all US citizens to do the same, citing “the increased threat of Russian military action”.

In an advisory on Sunday night, the US state department authorised the “voluntary departure” of US direct hire employees, and “ordered the departure of eligible family members” from its embassy in Kiev “due to the continued threat of Russian military action”.

The advisory added that US citizens in Ukraine “should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options”.

“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine. The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kiev.”

In an additional nudge, the advisory said that US citizens “should be aware that Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would severely impact” the American embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to citizens in departing Ukraine.

The advisory comes in the backdrop of US President Joe Biden saying last week that while he thought Russian president Vldimir Putin would invade Ukraine. It also comes in the backdrop of sustained diplomatic talks between the US and Russia, including most recently in Geneva where secretary of state Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, that have not yielded a breakthrough – during the talks, Blinken agreed to give written US responses to Russian security proposals, while reiterating the US demand that Russia de-escalate its military presence along Ukraine’s borders.

It also comes in the backdrop of the United Kingdom claiming, based on intelligence assessments, that Moscow had plans to destabilise the government in Kiev and install a pro-Russian leader in power.

Over the weekend, Biden also met his national security team at Camp David to review the situation, where, according to a report in The New York Times, the administration considered the option of sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to NATO allies in eastern Europe – with the option of increasing the number 10-fold.

Following the advisory, a senior state department official, “These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilise the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine.”

Also Read: US signal to China: Stay away from Taiwan during Ukraine crisis

Referring to Biden’s statement that military action could take place at any time, the official said that the US government would then not be in a position to evacuate its citizens.

But the official added that while these decisions were meant for the safety of its citizens and government employees, they do not undermine US support for Ukraine, and the American embassy would continue to operate. “In addition to our diplomatic coordination, we are assisting Ukraine with new lethal defensive security assistance, including ammunition for the front-line defenders of Ukraine. The first of several shipments for Ukrainian armed forces, totalling $200 million, arrived in Kiev on January 22, and more will arrive in weeks to come. With this new authorisation, the United States has committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total US security assistance to Ukraine since 2014.”

When asked if the experience in Afghanistan – where the sudden Taliban takeover in Afghanistan had left many stranded, provoking widespread criticism of the Biden administration back at home – had prompted the advisory, the senior official quoted above said, “I can say for my part, this is very much a decision that is focused on the situation in Ukraine and what is best for embassy Kiev and American citizens in Ukraine.”‘Leave Ukraine’: US tells American citizens, families of diplomats amid tensions

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