US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Getty Images file photo)

The United States has ordered family members of government employees at the American Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, amid Washington’s claims that Russia is preparing to invade the neighboring country. Moscow has rejected the accusations.

In an advisory, the US State Department on Sunday authorized the voluntary departure of direct hire employees and ordered the departure of eligible family members due to what it called “continued threat of Russian military action.”

“US citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” it adds.

“US citizens in Ukraine should be aware that Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would severely impact the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to US citizens in departing Ukraine,” it continued.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said the State Department was tracking US Embassy personnel in Kyiv “very, very closely.”

He said any decrease in personnel will be done “based on security needs.”

“I have no higher responsibility than the safety and well-being of the folks who work for the State Department and who are under my care, in a sense. So we're tracking this very, very closely. We're looking at it on really a daily basis,” Blinken said.

“And if we need to make a determination that we should draw down some of the folks at the embassy, we'll do that based on the security need,” he added.

US State Department officials said Sunday that Washington still doesn’t know what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions are.

"As President Biden told President Putin, should Russia further invade Ukraine, the consequences will be severe and the United States will provide additional defensive materials to Ukraine above and beyond that already provided,” one official said.

This comes after US Vice President Harris threatened Russia with “severe costs” if it launches any military action in Ukraine.

Harris issued the threat during an interview with NBC on Thursday as host Savannah Guthrie pressed her on President Joe Biden’s comments the evening prior about Russia where he said suggested that a “minor” Russian incursion in Ukraine would not trigger massive economic sanctions that he has promised.

She insisted that the Biden administration has been clear about the penalties Russia would face if it were to invade Ukraine.

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