US Embassy in Kyiv destroying documents as drawdown underway

The U.S. drawdown of its embassy in Kyiv has included the destruction of some immigration and travel documents as part of protocol to protect sensitive information, according to notes from a phone call between the Biden administration and Congress and shared with The Hill.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the U.S. would shutter its embassy in Kyiv amid threats of a Russian invasion into Ukraine that officials warn could be launched at any time.

The document destruction was discussed in a call on Feb. 12 between Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), notes of which were provided to congressional staff and obtained by The Hill.  

The documents being destroyed include green card and non-processed passport documents.

Among the updates McKeon provided to Meeks was that while the State Department does not have an exact picture of the numbers of Americans in Ukraine, about 2,100 responded to an online survey, with half stating their intention to stay in the country. 

McKeon also conveyed to the chairman that embassies in the region, in Warsaw, Poland, for example, are preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees and processing of American citizens. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said in a briefing with reporters that he could not offer details on the destruction of documents at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, but said that no valid passports were destroyed. 

“There are a standard set of procedures that we set into motion when we do begin an embassy drawdown,” Price said. “We have undertaken prudent precautions when it comes to sensitive documents, sensitive equipment, but just can’t offer a whole lot of detail there.” 

Price said the embassy compound is being guarded by the Ukrainian National Guard Police and that it is the intention for American diplomats to eventually return to the embassy in Kyiv. 

Diplomats from Kyiv are being relocated to the U.S. mission in Lviv, a city that sits closer to the border with Poland. The Biden administration has issued urgent instructions since last week for Americans to depart Ukraine amid the threat of an outbreak of conflict, warning it would not carry out a mass evacuation.

But the administration has stressed it is still vigorously pursuing diplomacy with Moscow and that keeping communication open is part of efforts to stave off a likely Russian invasion. This includes that the U.S. is expected to receive written responses from Russia to correspondence earlier sent from Washington that offered talks to address mutual security concerns.

Tags Antony Blinken Brian McKeon Department of State Gregory Meeks Ned Price Ukraine-Russia conflict

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