The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv called on American citizens in Ukraine to consider leaving the Eastern European country now, arguing that the security situation is unpredictable amid heightened tensions with Russia.
“The security situation in Ukraine continues to be unpredictable due to the increased threat of Russian military action and can deteriorate with little notice. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Ukraine to consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” the embassy said in a statement on Jan. 26.
Americans who are still in Ukraine have “multiple options” to leave via commercial flights from Ukrainian airports.
Meanwhile, “The embassy remains open and able to process U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and can also provide repatriation loans for U.S. citizens who cannot afford at this time to purchase a commercial ticket to the United States,” according to the statement.
Earlier this week, the embassy called on U.S. citizens to make plans to leave Ukraine. It noted that some eligible family members of U.S. government employees were authorized by the Department of State to leave.
“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine. The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” the embassy said at the time.
Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine but has denied that it plans to invade. In the meantime, the United States has spent weeks trying to build an agreement with European partners on a strong sanctions package if Russia attacks.
In a response to Russian demands, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Jan. 26 said he delivered a written letter to Moscow, he told reporters at the State Department in Washington. The United States and NATO held to their previous statement that any country can join NATO, including Ukraine—rejecting a Russian demand that the security alliance permanently bar Ukraine from joining.
“We made clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” Blinken said.
Although Russian officials didn’t issue an immediate public response to Blinken’s statement, officials have previously said that the Kremlin would take “retaliatory measures” if NATO and the United States reject its demands.
The Pentagon previously said that around 8,500 U.S. troops have been placed on heightened readiness status. However, the decision hasn’t yet been made to deploy them.
Reuters contributed to this report.