NATO evacuates staff from Ukrainian capital
Amid an increasingly tense standoff in eastern Ukraine, NATO has evacuated personnel stationed at its Kiev mission around 500km away to Lviv, in the west of the country, as well as sending some staffers abroad.
Speaking as part of an appearance on Ukrainian TV on Saturday, a spokesperson of the US-led military bloc’s Information and Documentation Center in the Eastern European nation, Oksana Musyienko, revealed steps the organization is taking to protect its staff, including moving some to Belgium.
“The safety of our personnel is paramount, which is why they have been relocated to Lviv and Brussels,” she said, adding that offices in the former Soviet Republic continue to work.
Lviv, seen as one of Eastern Europe's cultural capitals, is a large city in the west of the country, close to the Polish border. It was previously known as Lemberg and Lwow, and was one of the strongholds of the 2014 Maidan protests.
According to Musyienko, “NATO and allied countries are monitoring and assessing the situation very closely and continue to take all of the necessary measures.”
The decision to transfer staff comes shortly after the US State Department announced that it will temporarily move embassy operations in Ukraine from Kiev to Lviv due to concerns over the purported buildup of Russia’s armed forces at the shared frontier.
During the hasty relocation, staff evacuating Washington’s embassy in Kiev took apart and destroyed computer systems and communication equipment used by diplomats, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Western officials have been warning for months that Moscow is pulling its troops to the shared border ahead of ordering a full-scale attack against its neighbor, accusations the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
Amid the flurry of accusations that Russia is plotting an invasion, Moscow has sought to gain security assurances that would rule out NATO’s expansion closer to its borders and block Kiev from joining its ranks. In 2019, an amendment was adopted into Ukraine’s constitution enshrining membership in the military bloc as one of the country’s strategic goals, backed by the national parliament and the then-president, Petro Poroshenko.
In late January, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko wrote in a statement that Kiev “respects the right of foreign nations to ensure the safety” of their diplomatic missions, but called the measure “premature” and “an instance of excessive caution.”