US to Continue Along Path of Diplomacy in What Concerns Russia, Ukraine - State Department
© AFP 2022 / SAMUEL CORUMThe U.S. Capitol Building is seen past the Washington Monument as people walk around the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall as the sun sets on November 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden returned to Washington after spending the Thanksgiving Holiday with family in Nantucket and immediately met with members of his medical team to discuss the newly discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States is still interested in finding diplomatic solutions to the Ukrainian crisis and has advised its citizens to leave Ukraine only out of precaution, a senior US State Department official said.
On Sunday, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure of US direct hire employees and ordered the departure of eligible family members from the embassy in Kiev amid security concerns. US citizens in Ukraine are being advised to leave using commercial transportation options.
"I also want to be clear that we're not saying we know that [a Russian invasion in Ukraine] will happen, none of us know what [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin will decide but at the same time we're doing this prudent planning and taking these measures we are still very engaged on a diplomatic path," a state department official said at a Sunday briefing, explaining the reasons behind the new travel advisory.
The official reiterated that Russia will face massive consequences if it decides to "invade" Ukraine and said that Washington is urging Moscow to de-escalate the situation.
Tensions around Ukraine have intensified over the past several months after Russia was accused of a troop build-up near the Ukrainian border and allegedly preparing for an invasion. Moscow has denied these accusations, pointing to NATO's military activity near the Russian borders, which it deems a threat to its national security. Russia has also said it has the right to move its forces within its own territory.
The senior state department official said on Sunday that Washington thinks Russia could cause a "false pretext" for "going into" Ukraine and expressed concerns over recent attempts to destabilize Ukraine.
The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office claimed on Saturday that the Russian government was "looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev" and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev was being considered as a "potential candidate." No evidence was provided to support the claims. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the UK allegations "disinformation" and urged London to stop provocations.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper this weekend that the West is using Kiev as an instrument in order to advance its own interests in the region. She emphasized that Western countries need reasons to constantly justify anti-Russian sanctions and are using Ukraine in that respect despite the fact that there is no evidence of any plans of Russian "aggression."
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman reiterated that Moscow is waiting for a response from the US to its proposals on security guarantees.