Ukraine crisis: UK begins withdrawing embassy staff from Kiev as Russia war fears mount

Embassy will remain open for essential work despite ‘growing threat’ from Russia, Foreign Office despite

Thomas Kingsley
Monday 24 January 2022 11:09
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US orders withdrawal of Ukraine embassy staff family members amid tension in the region

The UK is withdrawing some of its staff from its Ukraine embassy amid growing fears of an invasion by Russia.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has confirmed some staff in Kiev and their families will begin withdrawing in response to the “growing threat” from Russia.

The FCDO guidance said: "Some Embassy staff and dependants are being withdrawn from Kyiv in response to growing threat from Russia.

"The British Embassy remains open and will continue to carry out essential work."

It comes following after the US ordered the families of American personnel to leave the Kiev embassy.

CNN and Bloomberg each reported all non-essential staff could soon also be told to leave the US consulate, with an announcement expected within days.

A source close to the Ukrainian government said Kiev has been informed and that evacuations of diplomatic families could begin next week, CNN said.

The US State Department also warned people not to travel to Ukraine and Russia due to the ongoing tension and “potential for harassment against US citizens”.

“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine,” an advisory from the State Department said.

The FCDO has advised against all travel to Donetsk oblast, Luhansk oblast and Crimea - all regions along the border with Russia. It has also advised against all but essential travel to the rest of Ukraine.

The massing of Russian forces has dramatically raised the fear that an invasion or incursion is imminent. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Russia had already evacuated family members and some staff from its diplomatic missions in Ukraine.

There is no certainty that Russian president Vladimir Putin plans to invade, but the continuing build-up of Russian troops, most recently moving units into Belarus, is seen as particularly worrisome.

European Union foreign ministers are aiming to put on a fresh display of resolve and unity in support of Ukraine on Monday, amid deep uncertainty about whether President Vladimir Putin intends to attack Russia’s neighbor or send his troops across the border.

Asked whether the EU would follow the US and UK and order the families of European embassy personnel in Ukraine to leave, foreign affairs and security Josep Borrell spokesman said: “We are not going to do the same thing.”

He said he was keen to hear from secretary of state Antony Blinken about the decision.

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