By Gretchen Clayson
The US State Department has ordered an evacuation of most of their embassy staff in Ukraine amid escalating tensions with Russia.
“We fervently hope and continue to work intensively to try to ensure that Ukraine does not become a war zone,” a senior State Department official said Saturday, according to NPR. “However, it appears increasingly likely that this is where this situation is headed, toward some kind of active conflict.”
“That is why we are reducing our staff to a bare minimum while we still have the ability to get our official people out safely and in a predictable fashion,” the official concluded. (RELATED: ‘Invasion Could Begin At Any Time’: US Secretary of State Blinken Warns Of Russia)
BREAKING: US officially announces departure of @USEmbassyKyiv employees. “On February 12, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of most U.S. direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.” pic.twitter.com/bz575MsJRL
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) February 12, 2022
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to speak later today via telephone, according to AP News. Sec. of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “to discuss acute and shared concerns that Russia may be considering launching further military aggression against Ukraine in the coming days,” according to a press release from State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The Secretary made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to deescalate and engage in good-faith discussions. He reiterated that should Moscow pursue the path of aggression and further invade Ukraine, it would result in a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response,” Price concluded.
Lavrov claimed that the West had disregarded “key” demands from Moscow and accused the US of seeking to provoke conflict in Ukraine and of unleashing a propaganda campaign against Russia, according to the Moscow Times.
Biden warned Americans that sending troops into the country to rescue American citizens would result in “world war” during an interview with NBC News. He also urged Americans still in the country to “leave now.” (RELATED: ‘World War’: Biden Rules Out Sending Troops To Evacuate Americans In Ukraine If Russia Invades)
American allies have also urged their citizens to leave Ukraine, according to NBC News. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands have now urged their citizens to leave as soon as possible, and Israel has also decided to evacuate family members of diplomats and Israeli workers at its embassy.
“Despite the reduction in diplomatic staff, the core embassy team, our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues, and [State Department] and U.S. personnel around the world will continue relentless diplomatic and assistance efforts in support of Ukraine’s security, democracy and prosperity,” the US Embassy tweeted.