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24 Jan, 2022 10:36

EU responds to US evacuation from Ukraine

Brussels has no plans to withdraw its diplomats’ families, despite similar decisions by Washington and London
EU responds to US evacuation from Ukraine

The EU has no plans to fly diplomats’ families out of Ukraine, Brussels has announced, adding that the US has not given a clear justification for its decision to evacuate personnel from the country.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Brussels had received no specific information to convince it that a withdrawal from Ukraine was necessary. “We are not going to do the same thing because we don’t know any specific reasons,” he explained, adding that if Washington provided further details on its decision, the EU could change its mind.

The diplomat emphasized that, despite tensions, Russia and the West have been holding talks, and urged all parties to give diplomacy a chance. “I don’t think we had to dramatize as far as the negotiations are going on – and they are going on,” he insisted.

Earlier on Monday, the US told the families of its diplomats in Kiev to leave the country and return home amid reports that President Joe Biden was weighing up options for boosting the American military presence in the region. Shortly afterwards, the UK announced that it would begin reducing the number of staff in its embassy in Ukraine in response to worsening tensions. Officials insist that the diplomatic mission “remains open and will continue to carry out essential work.”

However, later the same day, Oleg Nikolenko, the spokesperson for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, hit out at the decision. In a statement posted on Twitter, he said that "while we respect the right of foreign nations to ensure the safety & security of their diplomatic missions, we believe such a step to be a premature one & an instance of excessive caution."

Tensions around Ukraine have been high for months, with officials in Washington and Kiev warning that they fear Russia could be planning an imminent invasion of its neighbor. Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has any aggressive intentions, and has asked for written guarantees that NATO, the US-led military bloc, will not expand into Ukraine, a deal that American leaders have said is off the table.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva on Friday in the latest of a series of talks designed to reduce tensions in the region. Blinken reported that the negotiations had been “frank and substantive,” though the two sides agreed that they had not made much headway in resolving their major differences.