By Gretchen Clayson
The State Department has ordered family members of U.S. embassy personnel and nonessential staff to evacuate Ukraine as soon as Monday due to escalating tensions with Russia.
The evacuation announcement comes on the heels of Ukraine’s acceptance of the first installment of up to $75 million in lethal aid pledged by the U.S. to help counter Russia’s military build up along the Ukrainian border, according to the New York Post.
The aid, which is part of a $768 billion defense bill signed in December, provided $300 million to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to assist Kiev in acquiring the resources needed to counter Russia’s troop buildup on its eastern border, according to the New York Post.
The announcement also follows President Joe Biden’s comments in a press conference Wednesday that suggested America and NATO’s response to Putin’s actions would “depend on what [Russia] does.”
“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and what not do, etc.,” Biden stated. “But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force they’ve massed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia,” he concluded. (RELATED: Ukrainian President Zelensky Reminds Biden That ‘There Are No Minor Incursions’ After Press Conference Debacle)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Friday in an attempt to deescalate the situation along Ukraine’s border. “We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today,” Blinken stated, according to CNN. “I believe we are on a clearer path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns, each other’s positions. Let’s see what the next days bring,” he concluded.
Hours later, Blinken expressed his support for Ukraine in a series of tweets, some of which thanked NATO nations for sending defensive support to the beleaguered nation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the shipment of lethal aid does “nothing to reduce tensions,” according to the AP.
Next week, the State Department is expected to encourage other Americans living in Ukraine to begin leaving the country via commercial flights “while [they] are still available,” reported Fox News.