US orders families of diplomats to leave Ukraine
The US ordered family members at its embassy in Kyiv to leave Ukraine “due to the continued threat of Russian military action,” the State Department said on Sunday.
The advisory also urged US citizens in Ukraine to consider leaving the country now using commercial or other private travel options. The decision represents a further turn of the screw in a standoff between Russia and the US and its allies over President Vladimir Putin’s military buildup along the border with Ukraine.
“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine,” the State Department said in the advisory. “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.”
President Joe Biden is contemplating deploying troops to Eastern Europe and the Baltics, the New York Times reported. Biden is also considering deploying warships and aircraft to NATO allies, the newspaper said.
Biden is weighing sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries and could increase that number tenfold if necessary, the Times reported.
The moves mark an escalation of tension, which the US has sought to diffuse by diplomacy with Russia and among European allies, and with threats of strong sanctions should Russia move troops over the border. US-Russian talks last week failed to open a conclusive path to ending the standoff.
Asked earlier on Sunday about a possible pullout of diplomats’ families, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was “tracking intensely, hour by hour and certainly day by day” whether Kyiv was still safe.
Blinken rejected pressure to immediately escalate sanctions on Russia for its military buildup, saying it would limit western options in the future.
He said the US has focused with its European allies on building up the threat of “massive consequences” for Russia to dissuade Putin from sending forces into Ukraine and on leaving the door open to diplomacy.
“The purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression and so if they’re triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He said the US is tracking a UK warning that Russia is plotting to install a pro-Kremlin government in Ukraine as part of the Kremlin’s playbook for encroaching on its neighbour.
“We’ve been concerned and have been warning about exactly these kinds of tactics for weeks,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
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