On January 24, the U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of U.S. government employees and ordered the departure of family members (“ordered departure”) of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, effective immediately.
Authorized departure gives these employees the option to depart if they wish; their departure is not required. Ordered departure for family members requires that family members leave the country. The U.S. Embassy’s departure status will be reviewed in no later than 30 days.
The Department of State made the decision to authorize departure from Mission Ukraine out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine. We have been in consultation with the Ukrainian government about this step and are coordinating with Allied and partner embassies in Kyiv as they determine their posture.
Additionally, the State Department has elevated our previous Travel Advisory for Ukraine to Level Four – Do Not Travel due to the increased threats of significant Russian military action against Ukraine. The Travel Advisory was already at Level Four – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19.
We continue to reaffirm our support for the Ukrainian people and do so while committed to one of the Department’s highest priorities, the safety and security of our diplomats and the American people. The United States stresses that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv remains open for regular operations. Similarly, we stress that the authorized/ordered departure decision will in no way impact our commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to Russia’s deeply troubling build-up of forces in and around Ukraine.
The United States’ steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remains stronger than ever, as demonstrated in the delivery on January 22 of the first of several shipments of a new $200 million in security assistance for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, directed by President Biden to Ukraine in December.
We emphasize that Russia put us on the current path. The United States has consistently spoken of the two paths Russia can choose: dialogue and diplomacy or escalation and massive consequences. While the United States continues to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy, if Russia chooses escalation and massive consequences due to significant military action against Ukraine, the current unpredictable security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, could deteriorate with little notice.
With respect to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, our primary role is to keep the U.S. citizen community informed of safety and security developments, which could include information on commercial travel options.
As President Biden has said, military action by Russia could come at any time and the United States government will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly, including by availing themselves of commercial options should they choose to leave the country.
We strongly encourage U.S. citizens, whenever they travel abroad, to enroll their travel plans at step.state.gov using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and read the country information found on the travel.state.gov.
We continue to monitor the situation and will continue to provide information to U.S. citizens in the region through our Travel Advisories, Alerts, our Embassy and Consulate websites, and travel.state.gov. We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at step.state.gov to receive important emergency information, and follow us on Twitter (@TravelGov) and Facebook (@TravelGov) for additional updates.
Our Embassy in Kyiv is prepared to meet an immediate uptick in demand for consular services. Over the last several months, the Embassy has prioritized the processing of U.S. passports and immigrant visas, including adoption cases. As always, we will prioritize support for U.S. citizens in emergency situations and are working to ensure our continued capacity to do so.
We continuously work with other governments and international partners to facilitate the safe passage of U.S. citizens in crisis, and continue to engage with those in the region, in addition to supplementing U.S. contingency personnel.
The Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council – OSAC – continues to liaise with and provide security information to the U.S. private-sector community operating in and traveling to Ukraine. This support is ongoing through its Washington D.C. Program Office, independent of the posture at the U.S. Embassy. OSAC recently released a benchmarking report detailing the private-sector response to tensions between Russia and Ukraine and is available to discuss this report and any other issues specific to any U.S. private-sector operator via its program office.