The US Embassy in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff and their families, according to a CNN report on Saturday.
A source close to the Ukrainian government told CNN that the US has informed Ukraine that it is “likely to start evacuations as early as next week” of the families of diplomats from the embassy in Kyiv. The source said President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the matter and told him that if the United States took such a dramatic step, it would be an “overreaction.”
A State Department spokesperson told CNN said they have “nothing to announce at this time,” adding, “We conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates.”
Ukraine accuses Russia of boosting military near the border
The reported appeal by the US Embassy comes as Ukraine accused Russia on Friday of boosting supplies of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to separatist regions in Ukraine while actively recruiting mercenaries to fight in the ongoing conflict.
Ukraine said that said Moscow “continues to increase the combat capabilities” of pro-Russian separatists and since the start of this month, has “secretly transferred by rail and road more than 7,000 tonnes of fuel, several tanks and self-propelled artillery units” to the regions.
It said Russia was also undertaking “active recruitment of mercenaries” who are being sent to separatist-controlled regions.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that any Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “met with a severe and a united response” following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov said Russia had no plans to invade Ukraine, despite amassing more than 100,000 troops on its borders. He added that he hoped for “concrete answers to our concrete proposals” – including demands that NATO will never expand to former Soviet nations like Ukraine.
How will the US and NATO respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine?
While NATO allies are unanimous in rejecting Russian demands for Ukraine never to join the Western alliance, divisions among them extend also to what Western sanctions should be imposed on Russia if an invasion is launched.
Current and former Western diplomats say that while there is broad agreement among Western powers about sanctioning Russia in the event of a military incursion, there is no final accord on the details.
Blinken’s meeting with Lavrov came two days after President Joe Biden said at a press conference that a “minor incursion” might not trigger the same response from NATO as an invasion. Biden clarified Thursday that any Russian troops crossing Ukraine’s border would constitute an invasion.
NATO ally the United Kingdom has begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons and Canada has reportedly deployed a small contingent of special forces to Kiev amid concerns of a possible invasion by Russia.
Speaking in the British parliament on Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK had “taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armour defensive weapon systems”.