WASHINGTON — The United States is evacuating almost all of the staff from its embassy in Kyiv as Western intelligence officials warn that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is increasingly imminent.
Senior State Department officials said that while a small number of employees will remain to maintain communication with the government, all consular operations would be suspended.
Due to security reasons, the official could not give an exact number of personnel, though there was a total of 180 Americans employed at the Embassy as of December. Official said that some had already left while the vast majority would be coming back to Washington.
Officials said that the move was necessary due to Russian threats on Kyiv. He also reiterated the advice to private citizens from the United States that they should evacuate immediately.
“It isn’t just time to leave Ukraine, it is past time to leave Ukraine,” the official said.
Anonymity was requested by the official to speak about sensitive security information.
The State Department said it will maintain a small consular presence in Lviv, in Ukraine’s far west near the border with Poland, a NATO ally, to handle emergencies.
The State Department previously ordered the families of U.S. Embassy personnel in Kyiv leave. It had previously allowed families of U.S. Embassy staffers in Kyiv to leave, but it left that up to nonessential personnel to decide if they would like to go.
John Kirby, a press secretary at the Pentagon, stated that the Pentagon ordered the temporary relocation of 160 members of Florida’s National Guard deployed in Ukraine from late November.
The troops that have been providing advice to the Ukrainian army will be repositioned elsewhere in Europe.
Kirby said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “made this decision out of an abundance of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind.”
“This repositioning does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,” Kirby said.
As a sign of America’s commitment to NATO allies, worried about Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine in the future, the Pentagon said Friday that it will send 3,700 more combat troops to Poland.
A defense official who was authorized to provide the details under Pentagon ground rules said that the soldiers should reach Poland as soon as possible. They make up the remaining components of an infantry brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The mission of the officers will be to provide training and deterrence, not engagement in fighting in Ukraine.
That announcement came shortly after Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, issued a public warning for all American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country as soon as possible. Sullivan stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may give an order for Ukraine to invade any time now.
A similar mission to provide reassurance for NATO allies, approximately 1,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany will be moving to Romania with the U.S. troops that are deploying to Poland. Commanded by Lieutenant General Michael E. Kurilla, 300 soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps Headquarters Unit have also arrived in Germany.
American troops will train alongside host-nation forces, but they are not allowed to enter Ukraine.
The U.S. has approximately 80,000 soldiers in Europe, both at permanent bases and rotationally deployed.
Report by Lolita Baldor, Robert Burns, and Aamer Madhani of the Associated Press.