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Ukraine latest: US relocating embassy from Kyiv

February 14, 2022

The US has said it will temporarily relocate its embassy to Lviv. Meanwhile, Russia's top diplomat says his country should continue to pursue diplomacy to ease tensions. DW gives you the latest developments.

US embassy in Kyiv
The US State Department said the move is due to the 'dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces'Image: Anna Marchenko/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The US State Department said Monday it would temporarily relocate its embassy in Ukraine from the capital, Kyiv, to the city of Lviv in the west of the country. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday that the move is based on the "dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces."

"We also continue our sincere efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, and we remained engaged with the Russian government following President Biden's call with President Putin and my discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov," Blinken said. 

"The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith ... We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit," he added. 

The US has recently warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent, citing intelligence reports.

Russia has amassed some 130,000 troops and large quantities of military equipment at its border with Ukraine, prompting fears in its neighbor and Western nations that it might be planning an invasion in the near future.

While Moscow denies it has any such plans, it has made a number of demands to the US and NATO amid what it sees as threats to Russia's security as NATO expands eastward.

Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin would like guarantees that Ukraine is not granted NATO membership — a guarantee the alliance is not ready to give.

The confrontation has triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity, with Western leaders holding talks both in Kyiv and Moscow in a bid to prevent what they fear might be the first major war in Europe in more than 70 years.

Ischinger: Full-scale war possible

Here are some more of the latest developments:

US offers Ukraine loan guarantee of up to $1 billion

The US was working with allies to raise international support for Ukraine, including a US-backed sovereign guarantee of up to $1 billion to help the Ukrainian economy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

 "This offer ...will bolster Ukraine’s ability to ensure economic stability, growth, and prosperity for its people in the face of Russia’s destabilizing behavior," Blinken said in a statement.

Several international financial bodies, the G7 grouping of wealthy nations and other bilateral donors would help in the effort, he added.

US asks Americans to leave Belarus and sets up travel assistance desks in Poland

The US State Department on Tuesday asked American citizens to leave Belarus immediately due to "unusual and concerning Russian military buildup along Belarus’ border with Ukraine" and warned against traveling to the region.

Relatedly, the US on Tuesday also said it set up assistance centers in Poland to help Americans exiting Ukraine. Americans had been asked to leave Ukraine last week, with President Biden saying the US would not be able to evacuate citizens in case of a Russian incursion.

Americans can enter Poland via its land border with Ukraine without requiring any advanced approvals from Tuesday onwards, the US travel advisory statement said.

Japan warns of "possible sanctions" against Russia

Japan will take "appropriate steps, including possible sanctions," if Russia invades Ukraine, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

"First and foremost, Japan is strongly seeking a resolution through diplomatic dialogue," Hayashi said.

But if Russia invades Ukraine, Japan would coordinate their response action plan with G7 leaders and the international community, Hayashi added.

Austria criticizes withdrawal of diplomats from Kyiv

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schalleberg said Austrian diplomats would remain in Kyiv and criticized other countries for pulling their staff from the Ukrainian capital city, effectively saying it shook the confidence of Ukrainians amid fears of a Russian invasion.

"I think it's a questionable sign to the people of Ukraine if you get your own diplomats out early on," Schallenberg told the Funke Media Group on Tuesday.

Schallenberg added their diplomats would remain at the Austrian embassy as long as it was "somehow justifiable" through the period.

Schallenberg also said he was confident German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who's set to visit Moscow Tuesday, would convey to Russia that European nations were open to "serious talks" but that Moscow would face serious economic costs if there were "further military aggression against Ukraine." 

Pentagon believes Putin has not made final decision on invasion 

The US Pentagon still does not believe the Russian president has made a final decision to invade Ukraine, spokesman John Kirby said.

He added, however, that the Pentagon thought it "entirely possible" that Putin would make the move with little to no warning.

Kirby also said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin planned to leave for Europe on Tuesday, where he was to hold meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels and visit Poland and Lithuania.

UN chief 'worried' by 'incendiary rhetoric'

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held separate talks with the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine on Monday.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres still thinks that there will be no conflict, based on "his own analysis, his own hopes." 

Dujarric added that the UN still does not plan to evacuate or relocate any of its more than 1,600 staff in Ukraine.

Later on Monday, Guterres said it was time to "defuse tensions" between Russia and the West, saying he was "deeply worried" about the threat of conflict.

"The time is now to defuse tensions and de-escalate actions on the ground," said Guterres, who earlier spoke to the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine and expressed his serious concern over the situation.

Calling for an end to "incendiary rhetoric," the UN secretary-general told reporters he was "deeply worried by the heightened tensions and increased speculation about a potential military conflict in Europe. 

"We simply cannot accept even the possibility of such a disastrous confrontation," he said, insisting that "there is no alternative to diplomacy."

Canada to loan Ukraine almost $500 million

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Ukraine would be loaned $490 million (€433 million). Weapons would also be sent to help the country defend itself.

"In light of the seriousness of the situation and following conversations with our Ukrainian partners, I've approved the provision of Can$7.8 million worth of lethal equipment and ammunition," Trudeau told a news conference.

Trudeau went on to say: "This responds to Ukraine's specific request, and is in addition to the non-lethal equipment we've already provided."

Bolsonaro heads to Russia

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro headed to Russia on Monday evening, despite the West warning the country could soon invade Ukraine.

Bolsonaro has ignored calls from the US government and members of his own Cabinet to cancel the trip.

The visit to Russia was planned long before the Ukraine crisis arose and Bolsonaro's focus is on bilateral trade. Russia is a key source of fertilizers for South America's agricultural giant.

UK's Johnson talks with President Biden

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden agreed during a phone call that there was still a chance for Russia to step back and avert disaster in Ukraine, Johnson's office said.

"They agreed there remained a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine," according to Johnson's office. 

"The leaders emphasized that any further incursion into Ukraine would result in a protracted crisis for Russia, with far reaching damage for both Russia and the world," a Downing Street spokesman said.

He said Johnson and Biden also agreed "that Western allies must remain united in the face of Russian threats, including imposing a significant package of sanctions should Russian aggression escalate." 

The two men reportedly also reiterated the need for countries in Europe to become less dependent on Russian gas.

This echoes a remark made by Johnson earlier in the day during a visit to Scotland, where he told reporters,  "All European countries need to get (gas pipeline) Nord Stream out of the bloodstream, yank out that hypodermic drip-feed of Russian hydrocarbons that is keeping so many European economies going."  

NATO troops arrive in Romania

Russia's Lavrov tells Putin diplomacy still offers 'chances'

In an apparently scripted exchange broadcast on television, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday urged President Putin to persist for now with diplomacy in Moscow's bid to gain security guarantees from the West. 

"We have already warned more than once that we will not allow endless negotiations on questions that demand a solution today," Lavrov said. However, he added, "there are always chances ... it seems to me that our possibilities are far from exhausted." 

Lavrov noted in this connection that Washington had offered to discuss limits for missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence-building measures. 

 "I would suggest continuing," Lavrov said. "Fine," Putin replied.

Vladimir Putin
Putin's intentions remain a mystery to Western observersImage: Alexei Nikolsky/AP/Sputnik/picture alliance

Germany's Olaf Scholz holds talks in Kyiv

The German chancellor met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv to assure Zelenskyy of Germany's support.

His visit came as Ukraine has voiced some criticism of Berlin's refusal to send it lethal weapons on the grounds that Germany has a policy of not delivering arms to crisis regions.

In an apparent bid to defuse such criticism, Scholz stressed at a press conference that his country had been among the biggest donors to Ukraine in the past few years, pushing home the point by announcing a new loan of €150 million ($170 million) to Kyiv. 

On Tuesday, Scholz is heading to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The chancellor said he would "underscore" to Putin the heavy consequences of any invasion, adding that the the West was ready to impose "very far-reaching and effective sanctions."

Germany sends reinforcements to Lithuania

The first contingent of German troop reinforcements arrived in Kaunas, Lithuania's second city, on Monday.

Seventy troops arrived on an A400M German Luftwaffe plane at Kaunas airport, along with around 100 howitzer cannon and military vehicles.

More arrivals are expected throughout the week.

"It's a strong signal that Germany is willing and capable of reinforcing the battlegroup immediately as needed," said Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andrae, the German commander of NATO troops in Lithuania.

Ukraine relocates national carrier's air fleet

Ukraine's national carrier, Ukraine International Airlines, began relocating its fleet out of the country after notification that insurance for some planes was suspended because of the threat of a possible Russian invasion.

Five Ukrainian International planes were flown to Spain, and two more were scheduled to go to Belgrade, Serbia, for "scheduled technical maintenance."

Dutch carrier KLM previously suspended flights to Ukraine. German carrier Lufthansa will continue to fly to Kyiv at present. Lufthansa told German press agency DPA it had the necessary insurance though it was considering suspending flights and would discontinue the route if insurance were revoked.

US' Blinken talks with Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba, the US State Department said Monday.

Following the talks, Blinken tweeted that he had "reiterated the US will continue to support Ukraine against all forms of Russian aggression, including key financial assistance packages."

Kuleba tweeted that he had talked with Blinken about the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

"Ukraine is interested in it being fully operational," he wrote, in apparent reference to the fact that several staff have left the area amid the growing fears of a Russian invasion.

Zelenskyy declares Unity Day in face of invasion predictions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared Wednesday, February 16, a national "Unity Day" in a seeming act of defiance amid US predictions that a Russian invasion could occur on that date 

"They tell us that February 16 will be the day of the invasion. We will make this into Unity Day. I have signed the corresponding decree," Zelenskyy said in a national address.

US intelligence reports briefed to international media say that Russia might launch an offensive at some point after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz concludes a round of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

rm, tj/wmr, jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)