The US government has ordered the families of all US Embassy staff in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.
The State Department has 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.
US officials stressed that the embassy in Kyiv will remain open and that Sunday’s 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.
“Military action by Russia could occur at any time,” the US embassy said. Officials “will not be able to evacuate US citizens in such an event, so US citizens currently in Ukraine should plan accordingly,” he added.
The statement came amid growing tensions over Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border that went unabated during Friday’s talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva. .
Ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, a senior EU official said the EU would be ready to launch sanctions “within days” if Russian troops launched an invasion.
Ukraine has also reportedly reacted ‘seriously’ to British Foreign Office allegations that Moscow plans to invade the country and install a puppet government, a senior government adviser says, adding that Kyiv is resisting efforts forces to destabilize its government and its economy.
The Foreign Ministry’s claims that Moscow could overthrow the government and install Yevhen Murayev, a former lawmaker who controls a pro-Russian TV channel, sparked shock and skepticism in Ukrainian political and media circles on Sunday.
The Foreign Office made the allegations as the UK pledged to take a more aggressive stance against Russia’s buildup of more than 100,000 troops and weapons on the border with Ukraine.
Murayev himself denied being involved in a plot, telling the Observer that he had been banned from entering Russia and was in conflict with a close ally of Vladimir Putin. “It’s not very logical,” he said.
The Foreign Office has provided no evidence to support the allegations, which came as Boris Johnson’s domestic political unrest worsened.
British sources pointed out on Sunday afternoon that Saturday’s coup plot warning followed an assessment by British intelligence, a different wording from previous briefings which had suggested it was based on ” US-led intelligence”.
The British allegation came days after the United States alleged that Russian intelligence services were recruiting current and former Ukrainian government officials to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupation force.
The accusations have heightened tensions as talks rage over how best to deter Vladimir Putin from launching another invasion of Ukraine. Russian tanks and artillery, military vehicles and warplanes continued to come within striking distance of Ukraine’s borders over the weekend, and Russian troops were sighted within 20 miles of the border.
Moscow has announced extensive naval exercises that will place its ships in close proximity to NATO forces while potentially positioning landing craft for an amphibious assault on Ukraine’s southern coast.
On Sunday, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News: “There will be very serious consequences if Russia takes this step to try to invade but also to install a puppet regime.”
Blinken said the United States and its allies would provide a “swift, stern and united response” if Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Russian president, Blinken said, must choose between the “preferred path of diplomacy and dialogue” or “Russian aggression and its massive consequences.” The United States, NATO and Europe were ready for any eventuality, he said.
“We have been very clear that if there is further Russian aggression in terms of sending Russian forces to Ukraine, there will be a swift, severe and united response from the United States and Europe.” , Blinken told CBS’s Face the Nation, echoing the message he says he delivered to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during “frank and substantive” talks in Geneva last week.
“We have been equally clear that Russia is engaging in tactics other than sending forces to Ukraine or other countries, hybrid actions, cyberattacks, efforts to bring down the government. Here too, I am convinced, on the basis of the many consultations I have had with European allies and partners, that there will be a rapid, calibrated and equally united response.
Blinken did not say whether that response included the commitment of U.S. forces, but told CNN’s State of the Union that the alliance was considering “very practical and important steps,” including military options.
On Sunday, the US State Department said: “Security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russian-occupied Crimea and in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable. and may deteriorate without notice. Demonstrations, sometimes violent, occur regularly throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.
The department’s 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 increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas are at increased risk,” a indicated the department.
The travel advisory for Russia has also been amended: “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tensions along the border with Ukraine, potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, limited capacity of Embassy to assist U.S. citizens in Russia from Covid-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security agents, and arbitrary enforcement of local law.
The State Department would not say how many Americans it says are currently in Ukraine. US citizens are not required to register with embassies when arriving or planning to stay abroad for long periods of time.