US citizens in Ukraine advised to board commercial flights in case push comes to shove
Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio, depart their home station in a C-130H Hercules, Feb. 22, 2021. (Joe Harwood/U.S. Air National Guard)
A spokesperson for the US Department of State has warned Americans currently in Ukraine that they should not “anticipate that there will be US government-sponsored evacuations,” should a war take place, suggesting that they use the available commercial flights instead.
The official made the comment to media outlets on Friday, responding to questions on recent reports of a collective withdrawal. Several US media sources have claimed that Washington was considering evacuating its diplomatic personnel from Kiev in anticipation of an “invasion” that Russia was allegedly planning to launch.
Those reports were further amplified on Saturday when Fox cited unnamed US officials as having said that the State Department had “ordered families of US Embassy personnel in Ukraine to begin evacuating the country as soon as Monday.”
Also on Saturday, CNN echoed the report, claiming that the US was planning to evacuate non-essential staff and their families from its embassy in Kiev. The news channel went on to suggest that it had been the US embassy that requested the State Department to authorize the move. CNN also cited a source close to the Ukrainian government as saying that the first American nationals could start leaving the country “as early as next week.”
However, responding to Russia’s news agency Sputnik and other outlets later on Saturday, the State Department said it had no new announcements to make.
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. Currently commercial flights are available to support departures.
The department added that it was always engaged in “rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates,” but stopped short of confirming any immediate evacuation plans existed.
The highest “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for Ukraine, citing Covid and “increased threats from Russia,” has been in place on the Department of State website for more than a month.
Germany’s Bild newspaper on Saturday claimed that Berlin has also been working on an evacuation plan for its embassy personnel in Kiev in case of a “further escalation of the situation.” The German foreign ministry has publicly refuted the report, saying no such plan was in place.
Western media and senior politicians have been making claims of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow consistently dismissing as fake news allegations that it has any such plans.