The United States has ordered the families of all American staff at the US Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened concern that Russia, which has massed troops on the border, is about to invade.
In a statement on Sunday, the State Department also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense and that all Americans should consider departing immediately.
Russian military activity has fuelled growing concern in Washington and other Western capitals that it is planning to invade Ukraine, after annexing Crimea in 2014. Moscow has insisted it has no plans for an invasion.
The US Embassy in Kyiv warned that “military action by Russia could come at any time and the United States government will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so US citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly.”
Speaking on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rebuffed calls to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia, saying that doing so would undercut the West’s ability to deter any potential Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“When it comes to sanctions, the purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression. And so if they are triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect,” Blinken told CNN in an interview on Sunday.
Blinken said if a “single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive” manner, that would trigger a significant response.