(WASHINGTON) — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.
Dependents of U.S. Embassy staffers in Kyiv were told by the department that they had to leave Ukraine. They also indicated that non-essential personnel could be sent to Ukraine by the government.
The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.
State Department officials stated that the Kyiv embassies will be kept open, adding that this announcement is not an indication of an evacuation. Officials stated that the move was under review for some time. It does not indicate an end to U.S. support of Ukraine.
The State Department stated that recent reports suggested Russia had planned to launch a major military attack against Ukraine. But, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused NATO members of inflaming tensions with disinformation.
The State Department added: “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 Kyiv.”
The department’s travel advisory, which had warned against traveling to Ukraine because of COVID-19 as well as the tensions over Russia, was changed Sunday to carry a stronger warning.
“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Ukraine is a country of increasing crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk,” the department advised.