White House says no evacuation of US citizens being planned for Ukraine

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces train in a city park in Kyiv.
Associated Press/Efrem Lukatsky

The White House says it is not planning for a mass evacuation of American citizens in Ukraine if Russia were to invade the country.

“These are multi-mission forces, trained and equipped for a variety of missions to deter aggression and to provide reassurance to NATO Allies,” a White House official said when asked about a report that evacuations were being planned.

“We are constantly evaluating the evolving security situation and planning for a range of contingencies as we always do, but to be clear we are not planning for a mass evacuation of American citizens from Ukraine,” the official added. “President Biden has been clear that we believe Americans in Ukraine would be wise to leave Ukraine.”

The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials, on Wednesday reported that the White House had approved a plan for troops in Poland to help with an evacuation.

According to the newspaper, some of the troops being deployed from the 82nd Airborne Corps will begin setting up checkpoints and other facilities inside of Poland’s border with Ukraine to begin preparing to serve Americans. The troops would provide logistical support to help coordinate an evacuation, rather than flying aircraft directly into Ukraine to get American citizens out.

The Biden administration has repeatedly encouraged American citizens in Ukraine to utilize commercial flights to leave as the threat of a Russian military incursion rises.

The State Department currently advises American citizens not to travel to Ukraine due to Russian military activity and the high level of COVID-19 cases. Late last month, it ordered families of U.S. Embassy personnel in Kyiv to leave the country.

On Monday, President Biden advised Americans currently in Ukraine that “it would be wise to leave the country.”

“I would hate to see them get caught in a cross-fire if in fact [Russia] did invade. And there’s no need for that, and if I had anyone there I’d say leave,” Biden said in a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The 1,700 service members from the 82nd Airborne Corps are part of the 3,000 troops the Pentagon announced would be deployed and repositioned last week to bolster European allies. The unit is deploying components of an infantry brigade combat team and key enablers to Poland.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth, a Department of Defense spokesman, reiterated that these forces are “trained and equipped for a variety of missions to deter aggression and to reassure and defend our Allies during this period of elevated risk.”

“The Department of Defense continues to take prudent steps to enable the Secretary to provide a range of options to the President, in support of the broader U.S. approach to the security situation in Europe,” Semelroth said.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. 

Tags Joe Biden Russia Ukraine

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