US tells diplomats’ families to leave Ukraine, weighs troop options

WASHINGTON/LONDON: The US State Department announced Sunday it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave Ukraine, as President Joe Biden weighed options for boosting America’s military assets in Eastern Europe to counter a buildup of Russian troops.

The order, which also allowed US diplomats stationed at the embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to leave voluntarily, was one of the clearest signs yet that American officials are bracing for an aggressive Russian move in the region.

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“Military action by Russia could come at any time,” the US Embassy said in a statement. Officials “will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so US citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,” it added.

Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a dramatic buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO Western security alliance.

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The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Russian military already tore off a chunk of Ukrainian territory when it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine eight years ago.

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The State Department’s announcement comes a day after British authorities said they had information the Russian government was considering a former Ukrainian lawmaker as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership in Kyiv.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the British allegation as “disinformation,” accusing NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.

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