Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the U.S. is shuttering its embassy in Kyiv ahead of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine that officials are warning could happen any day.
“We are in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations in Ukraine from our Embassy in Kyiv to Lviv due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces,” Blinken said in a statement, stressing that the Biden administration remains engaged with the Ukrainian government and is continuing “intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis.”
“These prudent precautions in no way undermine our support for or our commitment to Ukraine. Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Blinken continued.
“We also continue our sincere efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, and we remain engaged with the Russian government following President Biden’s call with President Putin and my discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov,” he added. “The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith. We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.”
Blinken also urged American citizens in Ukraine to register with the State Department to stay aware of any new developments on the security situation.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said that the embassy compound is being guarded by the Ukrainian National Guard Police and that it is the intention of the U.S. to return to the embassy “as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”
The State Department on Saturday announced it was drawing down its staff in Kyiv and ending consular services for Americans, transferring those operations to the U.S. mission in the Ukrainian city of Lyiv, which sits closer to the border with Poland.
The Biden administration last week urged Americans still in Ukraine to leave the country within 48 to 72 hours, raising alarm that Russia could launch an attack or invade Ukraine at any time.
The State Department on Sunday further sent out a notification on Twitter that U.S. citizens can enter Poland through the land border with Ukraine, noting that no advance approval is needed in addition to a valid U.S. passport and proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The State Department has not indicated it is aware of the total number of how many Americans and lawful permanent residents are in Ukraine, as these groups are not required to register with the U.S. government when abroad.
But U.S. officials have consistently encouraged Americans to avail themselves of commercial options to leave Ukraine ahead of any potential outbreak of conflict, saying that the government would not support a mass evacuation like the one that occurred in Afghanistan.
Alarm over an imminent Russian invasion against Ukraine comes as the U.S. and its western partners continue to push the Kremlin to take seriously their efforts at diplomacy to address what Moscow says are its security concerns over Ukraine’s closer ties with the West and expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday reportedly urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to continue diplomatic talks.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, meanwhile, is in Ukraine on Monday and is heading to Moscow on Tuesday in one of the last scheduled diplomatic Russian meetings with a Western leader.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also posted on Facebook that the country would celebrate a national day of unity on Wednesday, referencing reports that Russia could possibly launch an invasion on that day.