US Advises All Americans To Depart Belarus Immediately 

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Feb 15, 2022 - 01:14 AM

update(8:14pmET)In what could prove a US continuing over-reaction, the State Department has advised that all American citizens should depart Belarus immediately. According to the fresh travel advisory on the State Dept's official website:

Do not Travel to Belarus due to the arbitrary enforcement of laws, the risk of detention, and unusual and concerning Russian military buildup along Belarus’ border with Ukraine; those in Belarus should depart immediately via commercial or private means, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions.

On January 31, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees from Embassy Minsk.

Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region. 

Russia and Belarus have continued with planned military exercises, which Washington has suggested is in reality part of a broader troop build-up with an eye on invading Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, through Monday evening reports continue to be advanced that Russia is surging more troops toward the border:

* * *

update(2:16pmET)Strong signals of escalation on the hugely alarming news that the US has announced Monday it is closing its embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, according to a breaking Wall Street Journal report. West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit $95/BBL for the first time since 2014, with Brent spiking to nearly $96 a barrel. US Embassy operations will reportedly be relocated some 340 miles west to Lviv, according to the report. 

"As part of the move, the State Department ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter and internal communications," WSJ details further. "Those moves render the Kyiv embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility."

"On Sunday, 56 embassy workers and the embassy’s classified materials arrived at Dulles International Airport near Washington, the internal communications said," the report notes.

* * *

update(1:51pmET)Appearing to deliberately avoid the kind of 'war footing' rhetoric that the US administration has been pushing out in recent days, Ukraine's President Zelensky in his Monday evening address to the nation emphasized that the current crisis with Russia would be solved through negotiations. "Ukraine seeks peace and wants to deal with all issues only through negotiations," he said according to a translation. But he also reportedly aimed strong words at Putin, saying, "We do not encroach on others, and we will never give up on our own.”

Further he said Ukraine is "confident in its army which is much stronger than in 2014" - a reference to the Crimea crisis and start of the war on Donbas. At the same time, the US is said to be weighing about $1 billion in loan guarantees

"U.S. President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan told congressional leaders on Monday that the United States was considering offering Ukraine up to $1 billion in sovereign loan guarantees to calm market concerns about a possible war with Russia, a source familiar with the adviser's call told Reuters."

However, the White House might start with calming its own hyped rhetoric, and repetition of an "imminent" invasion, or that it's coming "any day" - a scenario which clearly hasn't materialized over the past couple weeks the administration has been saying it. Into Monday, the message out of the State Dept. continues to be very alarming over the situation...

Zelensky has also declared Feb.16 a "day of unity" - calling for patriotic flag-raising and displays of loyalty to the nation. It's causing some to question whether this actually means Wednesday could be the day Kiev expects some kind of Russian aggression...

Interfax reports, "According to the published document, the head of state instructed to raise the national flag of Ukraine on houses and structures in all settlements and perform the national anthem of Ukraine at 10.00. Foreign diplomatic institutions were instructed to hold appropriate image events in the host states aimed at uniting and supporting Ukraine."

* * *

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is giving a major speech addressing the nation related to the crisis with Russia this evening, which is being aired on national channels. Over the past days authorities in Kiev have tried to calm the sense of panic among the population that's been stoked largely by ultra-alarmist reports coming from both the White House and Western media in general.

According to local media, "It should be noted that the last time Zelensky addressed the nation on January 25 on the eve of the meeting of the Normandy advisers in Paris and announced hopes for progress in a peaceful settlement in Donbass."

Via Reuters

This is as on Monday Interfax is reporting that Ukraine's government assesses that there's no full-scale Russian in the coming days, which stands in direct contradiction to the latest statements out the White House alleging precisely that Russia will invade in a matter of "days". 

Bloomberg writes of the fresh Interfax report: "Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies don’t see a large-scale Russian attack happening Feb. 16-17, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports citing Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council."

Danilov described that the situation is "fully under control" and suggested that it's part of the Russian playbook to promote fear and instability in Ukrainian society - a somewhat ironic assessment given the actual source of the panic. 

However, Danilove "Doesn’t rule put provocations after Russian parliament votes laws on self-proclaimed republics on Tuesday," according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, regional tensions have perhaps cooled a bit after Putin acknowledged talks with the United States will continue, and that some of the Russian military drills in the south are coming to an end. One key issue will be whether the Kremlin sends any level of troops back to their home bases. 

On this front, Russia's foreign minister also affirmed dialogue with both NATO and Washington remains open. "Russia will continue seeking answers from Western colleagues to its questions about security guarantees, while simultaneously developing a dialogue on other aspects of this topic, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Monday," TASS news agency wrote. 

"We, developing a dialogue on some aspects that are of practical importance today, with our Western, primarily American colleagues. We will simultaneously seek their answers to the legitimate questions that we have raised," Lavrov emphasized of the security proposals still under consideration.