The U.S. is closing its embassy in Ukraine’s capital and relocating its operations and personnel from Kyiv, the capital, to another city amid fears of a looming Russian invasion, the State Department said Monday.
The move follows an announcement over the weekend by the State Department that it had ordered most of its personnel and all Americans to depart the country. The State Department did not indicate how long it would operate out of Lviv, a city in the western part of Ukraine that is thought to be safer in the event of a Russian attack.
“I have ordered these measures for one reason — the safety of our staff — and we strongly urge any remaining U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately,” said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who cited “the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces.”
Russia has more than 100,000 troops positioned near Ukraine yet has denied plans it intends to attack the former Soviet republic. On Monday, Moscow signaled it was open to continued talks with Western governments about its security demands. Many of those demands, including one that seeks to bar Ukraine from joining the alliance, have been rejected by the U.S. and its European allies.
“The Embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine. We are also continuing our intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis,” Blinken said Monday.
President Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, and the U.S. has engaged in multiple rounds of diplomacy to try to defuse the crisis.
“Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. 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,” 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.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is heading to Europe on Tuesday to meet with U.S. allies in Belgium, Poland and Lithuania
and discuss Russia’s military buildup, according to the Pentagon.
Asked at a briefing about reports that Russia could invade on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he wouldn’t discuss specific dates but reiterated the U.S. contention that “it is entirely possible that [Putin] can move with little to no warning.”
“We have said for awhile now that military actions can happen any day,” he said, adding that the U.S. doesn’t believe the Russian president has made a decision.
Kirby reiterated Biden’s message that an invasion would be met with swift and severe economic and diplomatic consequences.
European leaders were also busy on Monday trying to prevent war. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met in Ukraine with President Volodymyr Zelensky before heading to Moscow for talks with Putin.
“There are no sensible reasons for such a military deployment,” Scholz said, in urging Russia to deescalate. “No one should doubt the determination and preparedness of the EU, NATO, Germany and the United States.”
Times staff writers Rebecca Bryant, Tracy Wilkinson and Anumita Kaur, as well as the Associated Press, contributed to this report.