The US State Department ordered the evacuation of the families of its diplomats stationed in Kiev on Sunday evening and advised against travel to Russia, as a consultation with European countries which until then had been held in Brussels began on Monday. deviation from the Russian-American negotiations on Ukraine.
The situation in Ukraine “is unpredictable and could deteriorate at any time,” said the statement from the US State Department, asking the families of diplomats to leave the country.
Local staff and non-essential staff can leave the embassy if they wish, and US nationals residing in Ukraine “should now consider” leaving.
“We believe a Russian invasion… could happen at any moment,” a senior US official told reporters. “The United States would not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in this scenario.”
The embassy remains open and the charge d’affaires Kristina Kvien “remains in Ukraine”, added this official who requested anonymity.
Washington has also advised Americans not to travel to Russia, justifying this measure in particular by “the possibility of harassment of American citizens”, in particular by the Russian police, and “arbitrary application of local laws”.
In Kiev, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense announced in a tweet the arrival of 80 tons of armaments “from our friends in the United States”. “And it’s not over,” added Oleksii Reznikov.
US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will discuss Monday by videoconference with EU members in Brussels the “frank talks” he held on Friday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Russians and Americans have agreed on a new meeting, and Antony Blinken has pledged to “put ideas on paper” in response to requests from Moscow.
Russia demands a written commitment on the non-enlargement of NATO to Ukraine and Georgia and demands a withdrawal of the forces and armaments of the Atlantic Alliance from the countries of Eastern Europe which have joined the NATO after 1997, notably from Romania and Bulgaria. Unacceptable demands for Westerners.
“We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, in particular by strengthening our collective defense,” the NATO spokeswoman warned on Friday.
– “Ready to respond” –
The security situation is considered worrying. Moscow says it has no intention of intervening in Ukraine, but supports the claims of pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in the Donbass (east) and has massed more than 100,000 soldiers, tanks and artillery on the borders with Ukraine.
“We hope that an attack will not take place. But if it does, we are ready to respond with massive economic and financial sanctions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday.
The ministers will reaffirm this position on Monday, according to the draft conclusions seen by AFP.
A series of options have been prepared by the Commission and will be submitted to ministers. They will be added to the retaliatory measures approved after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The reduction of gas and oil purchases, respectively 43% and 20% of the EU supply, and which largely finance the Russian budget, is on the table, a European source told AFP.
“The credibility of our response to Moscow presupposes avoiding vulnerabilities (…) in the face of the use of migratory flows or energy with the game on the price of gas or supplies”, insisted the French president Emmanuel Macron Wednesday at the European Parliament.
“The ministers will not take any decision on Monday” but “if something happens, the European reaction will be very quick. It will be adopted in a few days”, assured a European official.
European sanctions will have to be adopted unanimously, but those on a reduction in energy purchases divide the EU. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is due to travel to Moscow in February to discuss gas supplies to his country in particular.
“Within the EU, sometimes points of view and interests are not exactly aligned,” admitted a European diplomat.
Germany would thus have withdrawn a proposal aimed at cutting Moscow off from the global payment system SWIFT, according to a European diplomatic source. And Berlin refuses to deliver arms to Kiev.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday called for “wisdom” in considering possible sanctions and the “consequences” for Germany.