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US officially orders families of embassy staff to leave Ukraine

The US on Sunday officially ordered the “departure of eligible family members” of staff at its embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine amid ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

“On January 23, 2022, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action,” it said in a travel advisory.

“U.S. citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” it added.

The security situation around “Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice,” said the statement, adding there are reports that Russia is planning “significant military action against Ukraine.”

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 in a move that has never received international recognition and which has been decried as illegal under international law.

Russia recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises.