State Department orders diplomats' families to leave US embassy in Kyiv amid Russia tensions

U.S. citizens are also being urged to leave.

January 23, 2022, 7:55 PM

The State Department ordered diplomats' families Sunday afternoon to depart the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, amid heightened fears of a Russian attack on the country.

The embassy has also authorized non-emergency employees to depart, according to an internal cable obtained by ABC News.

In an updated travel advisory issued later Sunday, the State Department confirmed the drawdown and urged U.S. citizens in Ukraine to consider departing the country now using commercial flights.

"These are prudent precautions that in no way undermine our support for, our commitment to Ukraine," a senior State Department official said Sunday. The department made the decision now "based on this military buildup, based on how we see these developments," they added, calling it the "right moment."

Ukraine has been on the State Department's highest travel advisory -- Level 4: Do Not Travel -- for months because of COVID-19. Last month, the embassy updated that warning to say, "Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine," which "would severely impact the U.S. Embassy's ability to provide consular services" to Americans.

A State Department spokesperson said Saturday that the U.S. will not evacuate Americans like in the operation conducted out of Afghanistan last August.

"American citizens should not anticipate that there will be U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. Currently commercial flights are available to support departures," the spokesperson said.

The change in the embassy's status has upset some Ukrainian officials, many who are skeptical that Russia is planning an attack and think it is instead continuing to raise the pressure to destabilize the country.

"The U.S. embassy in Kyiv is going to continue to operate in an uninterrupted way to support Ukraine at this critical moment," the senior State Department official said.

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