US Moving Ukrainian Embassy From Kiev to Lvov - State Department
18:55 GMT 14.02.2022 (Updated: 04:53 GMT 15.02.2022)
© AP Photo / Efrem LukatskyA woman holds a Ukraine flag and looks up at the traditional Ukrainian bread and salt in front of the US embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in support of Donald Trump hours before he is to be sworn in as president of the United States.
© AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky
Russian forces drilling in Belarus are scheduled to complete their exercises on 20 February and some units have already begun preparing to head home, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday. This contrasts sharply with reports in the US media of a continued Russian buildup in Belarus and on its Western frontier.
Following the removal of most US Embassy staff from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev late last month, the US State Department has announced it is moving its embassy in Ukraine to the western city of Lvov.
According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the shift is motivated by Washington's fears that Russia is planning to soon invade Ukraine, despite assurances otherwise from both Kiev and Moscow.
"With that in mind, we are in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations in Ukraine from our Embassy in Kiev to Lvov due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces", Blinken said. "The Embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine".
"These prudent precautions in no way undermine our support for or our commitment to Ukraine", the US secretary of state added. "Our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering".
The US already maintains a consulate in Lvov, which is close to Ukraine's western border with Poland. A State Department official denied over the weekend that the Lvov consulate was a "fallback" position or even that the Kiev embassy would close.
"We're shifting some people there in part because of its closer proximity to US diplomatic and consular facilities in neighbouring countries so we can maintain close coordination with colleagues in those neighbouring countries and ensure that, should military action on the part of Russia begin, we can move those people safely should we decide to do so", the official told reporters.
Still, according to The Wall Street Journal on Monday, when US workers left the Kiev embassy on Monday, the State Department "ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system", rendering the "embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility". The report was based on internal documents viewed by the New York paper.
The US has claimed for months that Russian troops engaged in military drills in Russia's southwestern regions are preparing to invade Ukraine, offering a variety of claims for which it has never furnished proof and scolded journalists who sought it. Moscow says its troops are no threat - something the Ukrainian government has agreed with, urging the US to stop spreading invasion panic.
In order to defuse the situation, the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin has informed NATO of its primary security concerns, including that the alliance halt its eastward expansion and pledge not to accept Ukraine as a member or station offensive weapons on Ukrainian soil.
On Monday, Kiev seemed to indicate a willingness to consider giving up on its NATO membership ambitions, but that was quickly squashed. NATO has likewise indicated a willingness to discuss issues relating to its stationing of certain weapons in Eastern Europe, such as at the Aegis Ashore bases in Poland and Romania, but refused to close its "open-door" membership policy.