The US State Department has evacuated Ukraine embassy staff from Ukraine to Poland on Monday, amid fears that Russia will launch an attack on Kiev, Bloomberg reports. War fears escalated on Monday, after Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would immediately recognize the breakaway Donbass republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) as sovereign nations.
The officials are expected to remain at a hotel just over the border with Poland, though they could return to Ukraine as soon as Tuesday if the State Department determines that the security situation has stabilized.
MORE DETAILS: All State Dept personnel are out of Ukraine now, relocated to a hotel in Poland, I’m told. The US alerted high-ranking Ukrainian officials beforehand. They also notified other allies, but unclear if those embassies electing to follow suit.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) February 22, 2022
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken confirmed, saying that "for security reasons, Department of State personnel currently in Lviv will spend the night in Poland. Our personnel will regularly return to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services.”
Sec Blinken: “For security reasons, Department of State personnel currently in Lviv will spend the night in Poland. Our personnel will regularly return to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services.” pic.twitter.com/M3rccOuhiB— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) February 22, 2022
The move "of the small contingent of American diplomats still in Ukraine" comes one week after Washington relocated its embassy operations to Lviv from Kiev, citing a “dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces” near Ukraine’s borders. President Joe Biden’s administration has now ordered all remaining State Department employees in Ukraine to leave the country altogether, Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs said on Monday, citing unidentified sources.
Embassy staffers may return to Ukraine tomorrow “if the Russian invasion doesn’t happen, I’m told,” Jacobs added. US officials earlier this month urged American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country, saying they would be allowed to cross into Poland by land without advanced approval from Warsaw.
Embassy and consular activities will continue from Poland and the move is not intended to signal any shift in U.S. support for Ukraine, according to two of the U.S. officials. The U.S. alerted high-ranking officials in Ukraine before pulling out its embassy staff, and consulted with allies who also operate diplomatic facilities in the country, according to Bloomberg.
Last week’s embassy evacuation from Kiev reportedly included destruction of the facility’s computer systems and communications gear for fear that the equipment could fall into the hands of Russian forces. Lviv is in western Ukraine, further away than Kiev from the country’s borders with Russia and Belarus.
Several other countries have moved their embassies and issued travel alerts warning their citizens not to travel to Ukraine, following U.S. assessments that Russia could be planning to invade imminently.
There is hope that the move will compel Americans who remain in the country to get out as quickly as possible, one of the officials said. The move underscores concern that Russian military operations in Ukraine may not discriminate between military and civilian targets
Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Ukraine has told its citizens and Chinese companies to be careful of safety, it said in a statement on its website, as tensions in Ukraine escalate. The statement says that Chinese should not head to “unstable” areas, and that they should also stock up on food and water. The embassy noted that Chinese associations should help out Chinese in Ukraine.