The Biden administration has ordered United States citizens and embassy personnel in Ukraine to begin evacuating the country as early as Monday. The government has also begun shipping weapons to Ukrainian soldiers in the front lines against Russia. About 200,000 pounds of small arms ammunition has been delivered already and Javelin anti-tank missiles are expected to arrive from Baltic States and US military stockpiles next week.
With palpable fears that Russia might invade Ukraine any time soon, the United States embassy officials in Kiev and citizens across the country begin leaving by commercial flights as soon as possible. Unlike what happened in Afghanistan where the US government sent in military aircraft to evacuate everyone, the State Department said people should use paid flights to leave 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 State Department’s spokesperson said. “Currently, commercial flights are available to support departures.”
Washington had placed Ukraine on a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory, warning that people should not travel to the country since “Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine.” Given that Russian fighter jets are already stationed in Belarus, which is north of Ukraine, the Pentagon thinks the capital of Ukraine might be in direct line of fire.
With the order to evacuate from the country, some Ukrainian soldiers said they are disappointed that Washington ordered the departure since they do not believe that Moscow will order a full-scale invasion into their country. They said Moscow is possibly bluffing and only demonstrating a show of strength, a belief echoed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when he met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday.
“Your intelligence is excellent, but you are far overseas, and we are here, and I think we know some things a little bit deeper,” Zelenskyy told Blinken.
The confrontation between Russia and Ukraine escalated since the United States rejected Russia’s demands that NATO would not absorb Ukraine, and that NATO military positions close to Russian borders will be dismantled while removing NATO forces from Central and Eastern Europe. Meetings between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have not yielded any concessions, but the two promise to continue negotiations.