The United States moved its Ukrainian embassy operations to neighboring Poland overnight amid the buildup of Russian military assets around Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiery speech saying he wants to redraw the region’s borders.
“For security reasons, Department of State personnel currently in Lviv will spend the night in Poland,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday night. “Our personnel will regularly return to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services. They will continue to support the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government, coordinating on diplomatic efforts.”
Blinken went on to say the decision did not undermine the U.S.’s position on Ukrainian sovereignty, which remained “unwavering” amid the threat of a Russian incursion.
“The fact that we are taking prudent precautions for the sake of the safety of U.S. government personnel and U.S. citizens, as we do regularly worldwide, in no way undermines our support for, or our commitment to, Ukraine,” he said. “Our commitment to Ukraine transcends any one location.”
The U.S. temporarily moved its Ukraine embassy from Kyiv to Lviv last week, citing the “dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces.” Many non-essential embassy staff had already been ordered to leave the country, but key diplomats have remained.
The State Department has urged American citizens to leave the country, and Blinken stressed Monday that any military operations could hamstring commercial air travel and threaten the safety of anyone regardless of nationality.
Those threats only grew Monday after Putin ordered Russia’s Defense Ministry to sent troops to two separatist territories in Ukraine, escalating the conflict while saying the military movements were operating under “peacekeeper functions.” The move prompted an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, and the Biden administration said it would impose sanctions on the breakaway regions, but not on Russia for now.
The U.S. has warned a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen at any moment, although world leaders have pushed for last-minute diplomatic solutions.