The acting US ambassador to Ukraine told ABC News on Tuesday that an order to the families of diplomats at the embassy to leave the country had been issued because Russia could attack “any day now” if it did. wanted to.
Embassy charge d’affaires Kristina Kvien made the remarks after standing in the freezing cold with a Ukrainian deputy defense minister to receive a delivery of 79 tons of US military aid at the airport. Boryspil of Kiev, intended to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.
The US State Department on Sunday ordered the families of diplomats to leave and allowed non-emergency personnel to leave if they wish, given the threat of a possible Russian invasion, as Moscow masses more than 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian borders. The Ukrainian government criticized the decision, calling it “premature” and “overly cautious”. one step is warranted.
Kvien told ABC News that the decision to partially evacuate was made out of “an excess of caution” given the scale of the Russian buildup.
“The decision was made because right now Vladimir Putin and Russia have built up such military power on the border that they could act any time now,” she said. “And with that in mind, we felt that out of an abundance of caution, we had to make sure the families in our embassies were safe. So that was the basis for a decision.”
Kvien said Russia had built up so many troops that it “means Russia can do anything at any time.”
“It’s like a gun to Ukraine’s head,” she said. “And we don’t think Ukraine should have to live with a loaded gun to its head.”
Ukrainian officials have publicly disagreed with the US assessment that a Russian attack could come at any time. A deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, said on Tuesday that the number of Russian troops on the border was currently “not sufficient for a full-scale invasion”.
In general, Ukrainian officials are more skeptical that Russia will actually come under a major attack and in recent days have become increasingly vocal in challenging the image coming from the United States that an attack is imminent. The head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Alexey Danilov, told the BBC on Monday that “the number of Russian troops is not increasing as many are reporting.”
Instead, Ukrainian officials have hinted that they believe Russia’s surge is currently aimed at destabilizing Ukraine with the threat of attack, including undermining its economy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to panic and said the threat of invasion is no worse now than when Russia started the conflict in 2014.
Kvien said she believed the Ukrainian government took the threat seriously.
“I think President Zelenskyy takes the threat very seriously, and he is careful to make the necessary preparations,” she said.
“They have lived with Russian threats for a long time. So I would say they are just a bit more, ‘cold blood’ as they say, in French. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take them seriously,” she said.
The US military aid shipment landed on Tuesday was the third to arrive in a week, part of a $200 million security assistance package approved to help Ukraine defend itself and deter Russia.
The delivery included 276 Javelin anti-tank missiles, over 800 shoulder-fired SMAW-D “bunker buster” missiles, 170 pounds of .50 caliber ammunition and bomb suits.
Kvien said the weapons demonstrate the “absolute and unwavering support” of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The United States always seeks to avoid a Russian attack through diplomacy. Russia has demanded guarantees from the United States that Ukraine will never join NATO and that the alliance will withdraw forces from Eastern European countries that joined after the Cold War.
The United States has already ruled that out, but has offered to discuss other security issues, such as limits on missile deployments and military exercises.
Kvien repeated that there were “certain areas” the United States could discuss with Russia to try to address its concerns, such as “arms control, better transparency in terms of military exercises”, but she reiterated that Ukraine’s choice to try to join NATO was not on the table. She said she hoped Putin would choose to take the path of diplomacy.
“I think that’s the only reasonable way. I think this is the only path that will ultimately lead to a safer Europe, which Mr Putin says he would like to have,” she said.