- US officials fear Russia may invade Ukraine as it bulks up its military presence in the region.
- The State Department warned that violent demonstrations regularly occur throughout Ukraine.
- If Russia’s military acts, the US Embassy may struggle to help Americans leave the country.
With tensions escalating in eastern Ukraine, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure of American diplomats and their families from the country on Sunday, citing increased threats of Russian military action, according to the Associated Press.
“The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice,” the State Department said in a Sunday memo obtained by the Washington Post. “Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”
—John Hudson (@John_Hudson) January 23, 2022
The department maintains that the move does not constitute an evacuation. However, it warned that the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including helping American citizens leave the country, may be “severely impacted” by Russian military action, according to the memo.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian military intelligence has accused Russia of covertly sending weapons, troops, and supplies into the country’s eastern territory in preparation for a large-scale invasion. Additionally, sources in the region told Reuters that Russia is recruiting mercenaries to support pro-Russian separatists who have remained in the region since the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.
So far, diplomatic discussions between the US and Russia have failed to de-escalate tensions.
—ABC News (@ABC) January 21, 2022
“We stand firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We’ve been clear. If any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, that’s a renewed invasion. It will be met with swift, severe, and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.