Australia shuts down embassy
Citing the “deteriorating security situation” amid the alleged build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, Australia has ordered a temporary shutdown of its embassy in Kiev, saying it would be relocating operations to an office in Lvov in western Ukraine.
Announcing the move in a statement on Sunday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also said that the government is urging Australians to “leave Ukraine immediately by commercial means,” as “security conditions could change at short notice.”
Payne warned Australians wishing to remain in Ukraine of potential “Russian military action,” adding that it “would severely limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australians.”
Canberra has followed in the footsteps of other Western nations that have already begun to partially evacuate their embassies, urging their citizens to flee Ukraine amid fears of a ‘Russian invasion’. Moscow has repeatedly denied that it intends to invade its neighbor.
On Saturday, Washington ordered all “non-emergency US employees at the embassy” in Kiev to exit the country, citing the possibility of “significant military action.” All consular services at the US Embassy in Ukraine’s capital have been suspended as of Sunday, with emergency consular services being provided from Lvov, the US State Department said.
Canada announced on Saturday that it would also be relocating its diplomatic staff to Lvov. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly vowed that the Kiev embassy would reopen as soon as the security situation “allows us to ensure the adequate delivery of services and guarantee the security of our staff.”
Moscow has likewise directed some of its diplomats to leave Ukraine. Pointing to the exodus of Western officials, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested that the US and its allies could have advance knowledge of “certain violent actions” that might “undermine [the] security” of its personnel.
UK Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons, however, tweeted on Saturday that the British Embassy in Kiev “remains operational,” saying that she personally would stay in the Ukrainian capital along with a “core team” of diplomats.