EU asks non-essential staff to leave Ukraine, several European states issue warnings – EURACTIV.com
The European Union’s diplomatic service on Friday (February 11th) asked its non-essential staff in Ukraine to leave the country as several EU countries issued warnings over growing fears of a Russian invasion and the US president Joe Biden said ‘things could get crazy fast’.
“We are not evacuating. At the moment, non-essential staff have the option of teleworking from outside the country,” the EU’s top foreign affairs spokesman, Peter Stano, told reporters.
“We continue to assess the situation as it develops in line with our duty of care to our staff and in close consultation and coordination with EU member states,” he added.
A few weeks ago, EU diplomats said they regretted the US decision to evacuate the families of diplomats from Kiev at this time, as it could be interpreted as a sign that the West is accepting a such scenario.
The comments came as the Netherlands, Latvia and Estonia urged their citizens to leave Ukraine, among the first European member states to do so.
At the same time, the United Kingdom and Norway, non-EU countries, have joined Washington in urging their Ukrainian nationals to leave the country as soon as possible.
The UK Foreign Office said on Friday evening that it “now advises against all travel” to Ukraine and said “British nationals in Ukraine should leave now while commercial means are still available”.
“Since January 2022, the build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border has increased the threat of military action,” he stressed, adding that “any Russian military action in Ukraine would seriously affect the ability of the British Embassy in Kyiv to provide consular assistance”. .
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry referred to the “serious and unpredictable security situation” as it called on its nationals to leave Ukraine. He also advised against all travel to Russia “within 250 km of the Ukrainian border”, as well as to Belarus, with the exception of the capital Minsk.
The announcements came as several US media outlets quote Western defense officials as saying the United States believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and has communicated that decision to the Russian military.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was quoted by the New York Times as saying “we continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border”,
Sullivan said an invasion could begin “during the Olympics,” which is expected to end next week, and warned that all Americans would have to leave Ukraine within the next 24 to 48 hours.
He then clarified that the White House had not concluded that Putin gave the order to invade.
Meanwhile, a virtual meeting to discuss the situation was called on Friday evening with the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Romania, France, Germany, the European Council, the European Commission and NATO.
At the same time, NATO ambassadors gathered in Brussels for an extraordinary meeting, according to diplomatic sources.
“We will not go into the details of the discussions but the Allies continue to consult closely on further Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine,” a NATO official told EURACTIV about the talks’ objective.
“All Allies have been clear that Russia must defuse,” the NATO official added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier on Friday that Russia was gathering even more troops near Ukraine and that an invasion could come at any time, possibly before the end of the Winter Olympics in this month.
Commercial satellite images released by a private US company showed new Russian military deployments at several locations near Ukraine.
In his most stern warning to Americans yet, President Biden said he would not send troops to rescue American citizens in the event of a Russian assault.
‘Things could get crazy fast,’ Biden said BNC News.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]