The U.S. is temporarily moving its Ukraine embassy operations out of the country’s capital and further west, the secretary of state announced Monday, as tensions show no signs of easing on the Russian border.
The temporary relocation from Kyiv to Lviv, which is near the Poland-Ukraine border, is “due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces,” according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The decision comes after a senior State Department official told reporters on Saturday that most of the remaining U.S. embassy staff still in Ukraine were directed to “depart the country immediately.”
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“The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith,” Blinken said in the statement. “We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.”
The U.S. has stepped up deterrence efforts in recent days as officials warn of a possible Ukraine invasion by Russia before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics. President Joe Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for over an hour on Saturday, and Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also phoned their Russian counterparts over the weekend.
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The Associated Press has reported that U.S. intelligence indicates Russia is targeting Wednesday as a possible date for an invasion of the former Soviet state. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that Putin is “doing all the things you’d expect him to do” if he were “planning a major military action.”
Despite reports to the contrary, both Kirby and State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the U.S. does not believe Putin has made a final decision on an invasion. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin himself in a televised exchange on Monday that the country should continue in its diplomatic negotiations with the West, according to Reuters.
“We have taken note of his comments,” Price told reporters on Monday, referring to Lavrov. “What we have not taken note of is any indication of de-escalation.”