The United States partially moved its forces out of Ukraine and ordered the evacuation of most embassy personnel, according to CNN.
The US government is concerned for the safety of US citizens left behind in Ukraine as the likelihood of a Russian invasion of its neighbor continues to grow.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered members of the Florida National Guard out of Ukraine and stationed them “elsewhere in Europe.”
In an official statement, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, “They are leaving Ukraine and will reposition elsewhere in Europe. The Secretary made this decision out of caution – with the safety and security of our personnel above all else – and informed by State Department guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine.
He noted that the Pentagon still supports the Ukrainian military despite the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Kirby said, “This report does not signify a change in our resolve to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility to reassure allies and deter aggression.”
On Saturday, the State Department issued a travel advisory saying it had “ordered the departure of most U.S. direct employees of the Embassy in Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.”
The State Department said consular services at the embassy will be suspended during this period of heightened tension, and it stressed that a small diplomatic presence would be maintained, but not in Kyiv. These diplomatic personnel “will handle emergencies”, according to CNN, and are stationed in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, about 80 km from Ukraine’s common border with Poland.
CNN reports that on Saturday morning, a senior State Department official said it was “later for American citizens to leave Ukraine” and that “there are limits to what the United States can do. to help them in a war zone”.
In an afternoon phone call on Saturday, President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that if Russia invaded Ukraine, there would be ‘swift and severe’ costs for Russia. and “widespread human suffering”.
The New York Times reported that according to senior Biden administration officials, after the two presidents’ phone call, it was unclear whether Russia would invade.
A senior national security official said there was “no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks.”
On Friday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the US government believed a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent.
Sullivan said, “We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border. As we have said before, we are in the window where an invasion could begin at any time if Vladimir Putin decides to order it.
Alongside the United States, many other countries are reducing their diplomatic presence in Ukraine and actively encouraging their citizens abroad to return home.