US State Department now prepares US Embassy in Ukraine for Russian Invasion

Russian State-sponsored media RT did not try to deny or tone down but stepped the message up a little in adding the word “ordered” in saying: The families of US diplomats have been ordered to leave Ukraine, while some embassy staffers were authorized to depart on a “voluntary” basis, according to an updated travel advisory that reiterated claims of a “continued threat of Russian military action.

On January 24, the U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of U.S. government employees and ordered the departure of family members (“ordered departure”) of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, effective immediately.

Authorized departure gives these employees the option to depart if they wish; their departure is not required. Ordered departure for family members requires that family members leave the country. The U.S. Embassy’s departure status will be reviewed no later than 30 days.

The Department of State made the decision to authorize departure from Mission Ukraine out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine.  We have been in consultation with the Ukrainian government about this step and are coordinating with Allied and partner embassies in Kyiv as they determine their posture.

Additionally, the State Department has elevated our previous Travel Advisory for Ukraine to Level Four – Do Not Travel due to the increased threats of significant Russian military action against Ukraine. The Travel Advisory was already at Level Four – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19.

We continue to reaffirm our support for the Ukrainian people and do so while committing to one of the Department’s highest priorities, the safety and security of our diplomats and the American people.  The United States stresses that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv remains open for regular operations. Similarly, we stress that the authorized/ordered departure decision will in no way impact our commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to Russia’s deeply troubling build-up of forces in and around Ukraine.

The United States’ steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remains stronger than ever, as demonstrated in the delivery on January 22 of the first of several shipments of a new $200 million in security assistance for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, directed by President Biden to Ukraine in December.

We emphasize that Russia put us on the current path.  The United States has consistently spoken of the two paths Russia can choose: dialogue and diplomacy or escalation and massive consequences. While the United States continues to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy, if Russia chooses escalation and massive consequences due to significant military action against Ukraine, the current unpredictable security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, could deteriorate with little notice.

With respect to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, our primary role is to keep the U.S. citizen community informed of safety and security developments, which could include information on commercial travel options.

As President Biden has said, military action by Russia could come at any time and the United States government will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly, including by availing themselves of commercial options should they choose to leave the country.

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