US moves embassy operations in Ukraine from Kyiv to Lviv

Secretary Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the United States was temporarily moving Embassy operations in Ukraine from Kiev to Lviv, due to “the dramatic acceleration in the build-up of Russian forces.” This is consistent with CBS News reports that the United States is preparing to withdraw all personnel from Kyiv in the next 24 to 48 hours, according to three sources.

“The path of diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith,” Blinken said in a statement Monday. “We look forward to bringing our staff back to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.”

the The United States has already ordered all non-emergency workers to leave the US Embassy in Kyiv. The US Embassy tweeted on Saturday morning that “continuing reports of Russian reinforcement on the border with Ukraine indicated ‘potential for significant military action.’

Consular services at the Kyiv embassy were to be suspended on Sunday. US officials believe Russia could invade and attack as early as this week.

The United States threatened massive economic and political consequences if Russia invaded Ukraine, but the pressure did not stop Russia’s massive military buildup. US officials say Russia now has 80% of the forces it will need to launch a full-scale invasion, with the rest on the way. More than 100,000 Russian troops are massed along Ukraine’s borders – in the east, in Russia, and in the north, in Belarus.

Ukrainian tensions
A member of the Azov special forces unit of the National Guard of Ukraine demonstrates a firing stance during basic combat training for civilians in Mariupol, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, February 13, 2022. The United States is evacuating almost all of the personnel from its embassy in Kiev.

Vadim Ghirda / AP


National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned on Sunday morning on “Face the Nation” that Russian President Vladimir Putin could issue the orders for an invasion “essentially at any time”.

“We have seen over the past 10 days a dramatic acceleration in the build-up of Russian forces and the disposition of those forces in such a way that they could launch military action essentially at any time,” Sullivan said. “They could do it next week, but of course it’s still waiting for the order” from Putin.

A White House official said Sunday that Sullivan would travel to Capitol Hill Monday morning to brief lawmakers on the latest developments with Russia and Ukraine. He will brief House leaders and national security-related committee leaders and senior members in the morning, and then Senate leaders and national security-related committee leaders and senior members the following day. -midday.

President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday. According to a Ukrainian reading of their appeal, Zelenskyy invited Mr Biden to Ukraine, saying it would send a “powerful signal and help de-escalation”.

Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine understands all current risks and is ready for any development. “We will stop any escalation towards Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said, according to the reading. “The capital of Ukraine, Kiev, and other cities of our state – Kharkiv and Lviv, Dnipro and Odessa – are safe and under reliable protection.”

The White House said that during the call, Mr. Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The White House said Mr Biden had made it clear that the United States would respond “swiftly and decisively, together with our allies and partners, to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine”.

The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing diplomacy and deterrence in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, the White House said.

Americans working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission in Ukraine were withdrawn on Sunday, the US mission to the OSCE confirmed. These monitors have operated across the country, but have been particularly focused on a fragile ceasefire in the east where pro-Russian separatists have been battling since the 2014 Russian incursion into the region. The US mission to the OSCE warned that people in eastern Ukraine were “very much at risk” and added that security conditions – particularly in Russian-occupied Crimea in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia – could “deteriorate without warning”.

Russian intelligence services claimed that things were happening in eastern Ukraine and in particular in the Donbass region.

Sullivan recognized that there is a real possibility that Russia will choose this area to launch a false flag attack in order to justify an invasion. “We are also monitoring very carefully the possibility that there is a pretext or a false flag operation to launch the Russian action in which Russian intelligence services are carrying out some kind of attack on Russian proxy forces in the east. of Ukraine or against Russian citizens and then blame the Ukrainians,” Sullivan said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Saturday that 160 members of the Florida National Guard who have been in Ukraine since November — advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces — will be moved “elsewhere in Europe,” “out of an abundance of caution.”

The United States is deploying additional forces to reinforce the American military presence in Eastern Europe. The Pentagon announced on Friday the dispatch of 3,000 additional troops to Poland. They will join the 3,000 others already there and in Romania, to reinforce the allies if Putin decides to move.

The White House says the US military will not go to Ukraine to fight Russia, or even to help with evacuations.

“It’s a world war, when Americans and Russians start shooting at each other,” Biden said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that aired ahead of the Super Bowl.

He said Putin knew not to put Americans’ lives at risk.

“I hope if he’s actually crazy enough to come in, he’s smart enough not to do anything that would negatively impact American citizens,” he said.

Gabrielle Ake and Kristin Brown contributed to this report.

Christi C. Elwood