Americans in Ukraine will be on their own if Russia invades the country. The US government therefore advises them to take a commercial flight out of the country as soon as possible.
On Sunday, State Department officials said they did not know if Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to send tanks across the border, but insisted that a such a decision could be made “at any time”.
“The US government will not be able to evacuate US citizens in such an event,” a senior State Department official told reporters at a press briefing. “Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine will severely affect the ability of the US Embassy to provide consular assistance.”
The State Department ordered family members of U.S. government employees to leave the country and allowed — but did not order — non-essential personnel to join them.
The US government has already issued a “do not travel” advisory to Ukraine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but concern over a possible Russian invasion prompted the additional warning.
“These decisions were made out of caution,” a State Department official said. “We have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens.”
Although repeatedly pressed by reporters during Sunday’s briefing, State Department officials would not say how many US citizens would be in Ukraine.
“This is a number we are unable to share as we do not have a solid number (and) it is not ‘helpful’ to share estimated numbers,” an official said.
US officials would not comment on British reports that Russia was planning to invade and replace Ukraine’s government in Kyiv with one that could be controlled by Moscow.
“We are very concerned about attempts to destabilize (Ukraine) internally,” the State Department official said. “We have been concerned and warning against these kinds of tactics for weeks. It really is part of the Russian playbook.