The United States is weighing evacuating the family members of American diplomats out of Ukraine as tensions continue to grow between Washington and Moscow, according to a new report.
An announcement regarding the potential evacuation could come within days, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
If approved, family members of diplomatic staff would be ordered to return to the US while non-essential staff would be able to leave voluntarily.
The State Department has already placed a “Level 4” travel advisory on Ukraine, urging US citizens not to travel there due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and “increased threats from Russia.”
“Exercise increased caution due to crime and civil unrest,” reads a warning from the US Embassy in Kiev. “Some areas have increased risks.”
In November, the embassy warned US citizens in Ukraine that security conditions could “change with little or no notice” as Russia continued to build up its military activity along the border between the two nations.
While the embassy has not issued additional guidance since, officials will convene a virtual town hall meeting Jan. 25 for Americans in Ukraine to discuss the increased threats from Russia as well as what the US government can do to assist them.
When asked for comment on the report, a State Department spokesperson told The Post that it has “nothing to announce as this time.”
“We conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates,” the spokesperson continued, adding that the department has advised US citizens of reports that Russia “is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.”
“If there is a decision to change our posture with respect to American diplomats and their families, American citizens should not anticipate that there will be US government-sponsored evacuations,” the spokesperson added. “Currently commercial flights are available to support departures.”
News of the evacuation plans broke the same day that Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the latest effort to relieve the strain.
Following the roughly 90-minute meeting — which Lavrov called “constructive and useful” — Blinken said the US and Russia are “on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions,” but warned of a “swift and severe response” if Moscow opts to invade its western neighbor.
The US has agreed to provide Russia with a written response to Moscow’s demands that Ukraine be prevented from joining NATO — something the State Department has derided as a “non-starter.”
Further discussions are expected to take place.
“We agreed as well that further diplomatic discussions would be the preferable way forward. But, again, it is really up to Russia to decide which path it will pursue,” Blinken told reporters.
Many fear that Russia will invade Ukraine as the Kremlin has massed roughly 100,000 troops along the border.
On Friday, Lavrov dismissed the concerns as “hysteria” and emphasized to Blinken that there is no plan to invade. Still, the secretary remained skeptical.
“We’re looking at what is visible to all, and it is deeds and actions, not words, that make the difference,” Blinken said.