US drawing down staff in Ukraine

January 23, 2022
US drawing down staff in Ukraine

The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice.

A statement by the U.S. State Dept. as America draws down some of its embassy staff in Ukraine, as fears rise over a conflict with Russia.
  • On January 23, the State Dept. issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory – "Do Not Travel" – for American citizens regarding Ukraine, due to "increased threats of Russian military action." A Level 4 Travel Advisory was already in effect there due to COVID-19.
  • The U.S. ordered the evacuation of families of embassy staff; non-essential employees are also advised to leave.
  • The Associated Press reports the State Dept. says this is not an "evacuation," but the U.S. embassy in Kiev said the U.S. "ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action."
  • The embassy added: "U.S. citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options."

Why It Matters: This move came after the U.S. Sec. of State appeared on prominent Sunday news programs speaking about unity with Ukraine in light of Russian aggression.

US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

Here's the notice from the Kiev embassy.

From the White House Press Briefing on Friday, January 21:

Q: Does the President have a plan to evacuate Americans from Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT: I know there have been a range of reports out this morning, which is probably why you’re asking, Jacqui.

I will say that, one, we are already at a Level 4 travel advisory for Ukraine for COVID and have advised that U.S. citizens — have been advising that U.S. citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.

We do conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do in the event of the security — any security situation deteriorates in any country around the world. The State Department does that assessment. I would point you to them for any — any predictions or previews of any steps they may take.

Q: Is there any effort right now to get a handle on how many Americans are in Ukraine? Because I remember with Afghanistan that was sort of an open question. Is the dynamic different this time?

MS. PSAKI: It’s an open question around the world. We don’t put a chip in Americans when they go to countries around the world and track their movements. People can register with the State Department — that’s something they do — or they may choose not to register, or there might be people in any country around the world who are dual citizens who haven’t lived in or have never lived in the United States.

But the State Department would certainly have the number, in terms of Americans who have registered with the State Department.

by Jenna Lee,