International

State Department orders embassy employees’ families to leave Belarus

A Russian fighter prepares to take off from an airfield in Russia and fly to Belarus to attend a joint military drills.
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

The U.S. Department of State on Monday ordered the departure of family members of government employees in Belarus and issued a do not travel advisory for the Eastern European country, which is closely aligned with Russia.

Monday’s order, announced in a travel update on the department’s website, comes amid heightened tensions in Europe over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the U.S. cited as a primary factor for the advisory.

“Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region,” the notice reads.

Russia has built up around 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine, prompting fears of a pending invasion, with U.S. and NATO troops on heightened alert. Russian officials have denied claims that it plans to invade the country, but the nation is sending some troops to Belarus in preparation for military drills and war games set to begin on Feb. 10.

In Monday’s notice, the State Department says Belarusian limitations on embassy staffing have already limited its ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in Belarus.

Belarus has also been swept up in a series of protests following the country’s 2020 election, which some say was rigged. Belarusian officials under the direction of President Alexander Lukashenko detained “tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with opposition parties and alleged participation in political demonstrations” in 2021, according to the State Department.

“Do not Travel to Belarus due to the arbitrary enforcement of laws [and] the risk of detention,” Monday’s notice says.

Last week, the U.S. ordered the departure of family members of staff at its embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, as tensions in the region remain high.

At a United Nations Security Council meeting this week, Russian officials continued to deny claims that it was planning to invade Ukraine, accusing the U.S. and its allies of stoking hysteria in the region. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the conflict with Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday.

“The Secretary urged immediate Russian de-escalation and the withdrawal of troops and equipment from Ukraine’s borders,” said a readout from the meeting. “He emphasized that further invasion of Ukraine would be met with swift and severe consequences and urged Russia to pursue a diplomatic path.”

Tags Antony Blinken Belarus Department of State departure Do not travel embassy Russia Ukraine-Russia conflict
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