State Department orders U.S. Embassy officials to begin evacuating
On Friday, the first shipment of ammunition arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, as directed by President Joe Biden, reported multiple news sources.
The State Department is preparing to approve the evacuation of certain U.S. diplomats and their families from the embassy in Ukraine, as early as Monday. However, the approval of the final authorization has yet to come through.
The ammunition shipment included “close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front line defenders of Ukraine,” reported NBC News and “demonstrates U.S. commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” reported the embassy in a tweet. The $200 million package of military assistance to Ukraine was approved in December.
The approval came amid growing concerns from Kyiv and Western allies of an impending invasion of Ukraine by Russia. More than 100,000 Russian troops have amassed near Moscow at the Russian/Ukraine border in recent weeks.
Despite President Vladimir Putin issuing several demands to the west, Russia denies any plans for an invasion. Pres. Putin’s demands include a prohibition on Ukrainian membership in NATO and withdrawal of most U.S. and allied military presence in Eastern Europe. The U.S. says that’s a nonstarter.
“We have nothing to announce at this time. We conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates. 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 U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. Currently, commercial flights are available to support departures,” a spokesperson for the State Department told ABC News.
“Talks between (Secretary of State Anthony) Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday yielded no breakthroughs, though both sides agreed to continue negotiating diplomatically. The two diplomats will speak again after the U.S. submits a formal response to Russian demands next week,” reported Fox News.
Mr. Blinken traveled to Kyiv, Berlin and Geneva this past week to discuss support for Ukraine with European allies and partners and to speak with Mr. Lavrov concerning ongoing Russian aggression towards Ukraine.
“I expedited and authorized and we fully endorse transfers of defensive equipment
NATO allies are providing to Ukraine to strengthen its ability to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked and irresponsible aggression. The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine. We are utilizing all available security cooperation tools to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of Russian aggression,” said Mr. Bliken in tweets on Friday.
Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet, Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks and Lithuanian Minister of Defense Arvydas Anušauskas issued a statement in support of Ukraine, noting that they had received approval from the U.S. and work closely to expedite delivery to Ukraine.
The statement indicated that the three countries would be sending U.S.-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment to Ukraine. More specifically, Estonia will be providing Javelin anti-tank missiles while Latvia and Lithuania will be providing Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other related equipment, reported NBC News.
“Today, Ukraine is at the forefront of separating Europe from the military conflict with Russia. Let´s face it – the war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor,” said Mr. Laanet. He added that he is pleased to consult with the allies and has decided to donate a weapons system to Ukraine.
“Today we have all the necessary approvals from the U.S. to send the weapons. With this we show that we support Ukraine not only with words, but also with deeds. The Allies are united, but there is always a need for those who show initiative, Estonia is definitely one of those countries,” continued Mr. Laanet.