The US and UK are withdrawing diplomats’ families from Ukraine, but the EU has said dependants are to stay put for now, amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.
The US Department of State told the dependants of staffers at the US embassy in Kiev that they must leave the country.
Non-essential embassy staff could also leave Ukraine at government expense, it added.
US officials said that the Kiev embassy would remain open and that Sunday’s announcement did not constitute an evacuation.
The move had been under consideration for some time and did not reflect an easing of US support for Ukraine, the officials said.
“Military action by Russia could come at any time,” the US embassy said.
Officials “will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so US citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,” it added.
Yesterday, the British Foreign Office said that some British staff and dependants were being withdrawn, but EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the bloc did not plan to follow suit for now.
“We are not going to do the same thing because we don’t know any specific reasons,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived for a meeting in Brussels with his EU counterparts that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to join by videoconference.
Ahead of the meeting, a senior European official said the EU would be ready to launch sanctions “within days” if Russian troops launched an invasion.
On Sunday, a senior Ukrainian government adviser said the country was reacting “seriously” to UK allegations that Moscow has plans to invade the country and install a puppet government, adding that Kiev was resisting Russian efforts to destabilize its government and economy.
The Foreign Office’s claims that Moscow might topple the government and install Yevhen Murayev, a former Ukrainian lawmaker who controls a pro-Russia television station, were met with shock and some skepticism in Ukrainian political and media circles.
Murayev himself denied that he was involved in any plot, telling the Observer that he had been banned from entering Russia and was in a conflict with a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It isn’t very logical,” he said.
On Sunday, the US State Department said: “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 travel advisory for Russia was also changed: “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against US citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”
The State Department would not say how many Americans it believes are currently in Ukraine.
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