U.S. relocating Kyiv embassy operations to western Ukraine
The U.S. is temporarily relocating its embassy operations from Kyiv to Lviv in western Ukraine "due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
Why it matters: The Biden administration is taking extreme precautions in the face of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, which U.S. officials believe may be planned for Wednesday.
The big picture: The State Department has already dramatically reduced its embassy personnel in Ukraine and repeatedly called on all Americans to leave the country while commercial options are still available.
- The U.S. fears that in a worst-case scenario, Russia could target Kyiv, the capital, with a military assault intended to topple the pro-Western government.
- Lviv is near the border with Poland, which the U.S. government has encouraged American citizens to use as a land crossing to leave Ukraine.
What they're saying: "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 said in a statement.
- "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."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree on Monday designating Feb. 16 — which Western officials believe will be the day of the invasion — as a day of national unity to combat Russian threats and disinformation.
- Russia's foreign minister encouraged President Vladimir Putin on Monday to continue pursuing diplomacy with the West, but military movements near Ukraine's border show no signs that Moscow plans to de-escalate.
- White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned last week that if Russia proceeds with an invasion, "it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks" that could "kill civilians without regard to their nationality."
Between the lines: Zelensky addressed speculation on Monday that some Western governments were moving their embassies out of Kyiv, calling it "a big mistake" because "there is no western Ukraine. There is Ukraine."
- "So if, God forbid, something happens, it will be everywhere. It’s impossible to be five to six hours away from escalation or problems," Zelensky warned.
- Russia's Lavrov says talks to solve Ukraine crisis are "far from exhausted"
- U.S. warns threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine is "immediate"
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.