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Russia removing staff from Kyiv embassy: report

Some employees and their families left the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier this month amid fraught tensions between the two countries, The New York Times reported, citing a senior Ukrainian security official.

The Ukrainian security official told the newspaper that mostly the wives and children of employees from the Russian Embassy began leaving on Jan. 5. A total of 18 people left the embassy.

Over the next couple of days, roughly another 30 staff members and relatives from the Russia’s consulate in Lviv and the embassy in Kyiv also left.

A U.S. official said in a statement to the Times regarding the matter that “we have information that indicates the Russian government was preparing to evacuate their family members from the Russian Embassy in Ukraine in late December and early January.”

However, the newspaper noted that it remains unclear exactly what Russia is trying to communicate by such a move to empty out its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine. 

A spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry told journalists on Tuesday that despite “provocations and the aggressive behavior of local radicals, I repeat that our missions are operating as usual,” according to the Times.

Asked about the report, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. referred The Hill to a Telegram post from Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria V. Zakharova. 

“If the American newspaper addressed us for a comment, it would know what was going on. But then the interest in publishing the article is likely to be lost altogether,” she said, according to Russian news agency Tass.

The puzzling development comes amid heightened tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the latter of which has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. U.S. officials and other nations remain concerned that Russia is readying itself for an invasion into the former Soviet republic, though Russia has denied those allegations.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters late last week that they did “have information that indicates that Russia is already working actively to create a pretext for a potential invasion, for a move on Ukraine.”

Amid those concerns, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be traveling to Ukraine and Germany to meet with officials, while a group of bipartisan lawmakers earlier this week announced making their own trip to Ukraine.

“The Secretary’s travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia’s military build-up and continued aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Tuesday following the announcement of Blinken’s travel.

–Updated at 11:10 a.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken John Kirby Russia Ukraine

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