These countries withdraw Ukrainian embassy staff amid growing fears of Russian invasion

A woman walks past the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. The Department of State is ordering the families of all U.S. personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country and allows non-essential personnel to leave Ukraine. The move comes amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine despite talks between US and Russian officials. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

As tensions around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict soared this week, the United States ordered the departure of all family members of US embassy staff, citing the “threat of Russian military action”. . He also told non-essential staff they could leave.

The move prompted US allies such as Britain and Canada to follow suit and temporarily withdraw some personnel amid a buildup of Russian troops and weapons on Ukraine’s borders. But others, including the European Union, chose to stay, instead calling for more diplomacy as a way to avoid war.

The differing approaches have highlighted a growing rift between Western nations over how to confront Moscow.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko this week called the evacuation of diplomatic families “premature”.

“It is extremely important to avoid any activity that could be used in the information space to increase tension in society and destabilize Ukraine’s economic and financial security,” Nikolenko wrote on Twitter Monday.

He said only a handful of the 129 diplomatic missions in Ukraine have announced evacuations. Here is where some of those nations are.

United States

After the diplomats’ families were ordered to leave Ukraine, US officials in Kyiv held a virtual town hall on Tuesday and warned hundreds of Americans that the embassy would not be able to evacuate them in the event of a conflict. .

The embassy also issued an alert notice classifying Ukraine as “Level 4: Do not travel”. According to the alert, security conditions along Ukraine’s borders, in Russian-occupied Crimea and in eastern Ukraine “are unpredictable and may deteriorate without notice”.

The advisory said U.S. citizens “should consider departing now using available commercial or private transportation options.”

US officials declined to provide further details on why the departure order was being issued now, but relayed President Joe Biden’s recent remarks that an invasion “could happen at any time”.

The United States has also warned citizens of neighboring Belarus – where Russia has repositioned its forces in recent days – to keep an eye on “political and military tensions in the region” and to avoid public protests. He urged Americans there to “regularly re-evaluate possible emergency departure plans.”

The decision to withdraw some staff from Ukraine was “based on one factor: the safety and security of our colleagues and our families,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“I want to be clear that our embassy in Kyiv will remain open and that we continue to maintain a strong presence to provide diplomatic, economic and security support to Ukraine,” he said.

Canada

Global Affairs Canada announced on Tuesday that it would “temporarily withdraw” the children of embassy staff and their accompanying family members. In a statement, he also cited “the ongoing Russian military build-up and destabilizing activities in and around Ukraine.”

An adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Mykhailo Podolyak, told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper that the decision to send the diplomats’ families home was understandable. But he warned it was having a negative effect on Ukraine’s morale.

“Overreacting to what the Russian Federation has done. . . makes Ukrainian society nervous,” Podolyak said in an interview in response to Canada’s announcement.

Britain

Britain temporarily withdrew staff and dependents from its Ukrainian embassy on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

He called it a “responsible precaution”, but said the embassy would remain open and continue to provide consular assistance to British nationals in Ukraine.

About half of the embassy staff will return to Britain, the BBC reported.

European Union

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that most member countries would not cut their embassy staff immediately.

“We are not going to do the same because we don’t know any specific reason,” Borrell said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Reuters reported.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” he said.

The German Foreign Ministry said on Monday families of key staff could leave but diplomats would stay.

“This is the appropriate measure in the current situation,” said ministry spokesman Christofer Burger.

Australia

The Australian government has urged its citizens to leave Ukraine immediately due to the “increased risk of armed conflict”, Australia’s ABC News reported on Monday.

“Australians in Ukraine should leave now by commercial means, where possible, knowing that flight availability may change or be suspended at short notice,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

He raised his advice for Ukraine to “Do not travel”.