Ukraine: Relatives of embassy staff can leave the country

Status: 01/24/2022 2:07 p.m

The Federal Foreign Office has given embassy employees in Kiev the freedom to leave the country – the mission itself should remain able to work. The US and UK are going further and reducing their staff.

The Federal Foreign Office allows family members of German embassy staff in Ukraine to decide whether to leave the country. The return trip to Germany can take place on a voluntary basis, said a foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin.

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had previously announced that the German embassy staff and their families would remain in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, although the situation would “of course be constantly evaluated”.

“Ensure ability to work”

The spokesman said that the Foreign Office’s approach should ensure the safety of those affected – but at the same time also ensure the “working ability of our diplomatic mission in Ukraine”.

The possibility of a voluntary return also applies to relatives of employees of German organizations such as the Goethe Institute or the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The costs for the return journey would be borne by the Federal Foreign Office or other employers. “This is the appropriate step for the well-being of the people for whom we are responsible,” said the foreign ministry spokesman.

The Federal Foreign Office avoided an order for embassy staff to leave the country.

US “Precautions”.

The USA had previously announced that it would reduce its embassy presence in Kiev in view of the tense situation in the Ukraine conflict. The US State Department announced that employees who were not immediately required to leave the country voluntarily had been approved because of the ongoing threat from Russian military action.

Family members of embassy employees have been asked to leave Ukraine. These are “precautionary measures,” said a senior ministry official. The embassy in Kiev will remain open.

Great Britain draws consequences and warns

Great Britain also announced that it would withdraw employees from its embassy in Kiev due to the worsening situation. In response to the growing threat from Russia, some employees and relatives would be recalled from the embassy, ​​the Foreign Office said in London.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against invading Ukraine: “We have to make it very clear to the Kremlin, Russia, that it would be a disastrous step,” Johnson said in Milton Keynes. From a Russian perspective, too, this would be a “painful, violent and bloody affair,” the prime minister warned. He announced that he would speak to international partners.

Kiev speaks of “excessive caution”

Ukraine has described the reduction in US embassy staff in Kiev as “exaggerated caution” by the US. “We consider such a step by the American side to be premature,” said the foreign ministry in the capital, Kiev. The security situation has “not fundamentally changed”.

EU does not want to withdraw diplomats for the time being

So far, the European Union sees no reason to ask embassy staff and family members of diplomats to leave Ukraine. “I don’t think we need to dramatize,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on the fringes of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. As long as negotiations with Russia were still going on, he didn’t think it was necessary to leave Ukraine. At the same time, Borrell admitted that the assessment of the situation could change.

Recently, there had been new serious tensions in the Ukraine conflict. The threat from Russia has been constant since 2014, the Foreign Ministry said. Russian troops near the state border had already deployed in April 2021.

Travel to Russia is not recommended

The US State Department also made it clear that there would be no evacuation action in the event of an invasion of Russia. Therefore, US citizens should plan accordingly now. You should consider leaving the country now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.

In addition, the US government advises its citizens against traveling to Russia. US citizens are “strongly recommended” to avoid traveling to Russia, the State Department said.

Latvia and Australia warn against travel

Latvia also advises its citizens not to travel to Ukraine. “If it is necessary to visit Ukraine, we invite you to register in the consular register of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics wrote on Facebook. In addition, in view of the increasing tensions, there are also plans to bring the embassy staff in Kiev to safety if necessary.

The Australian Government has urged all Australians in Ukraine to leave the country commercially now and be aware that flights could be changed or suspended at short notice. Relatives of Australian diplomats would be flown out of the capital Kiev, it said. The travel warning for the country was raised to the highest level “because of the risk of armed conflict”.

No extended travel warning from the AA

So far, Germany has only advised its citizens against traveling to the areas in the east controlled by pro-Russian separatists and to the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula. However, the Foreign Office advises Germans in Ukraine to be well informed about the security situation “in light of the current movements of Russian military units near the Ukrainian borders”.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border in recent weeks. The West therefore fears a major Russian attack on the neighboring country. Moscow denies any invasion plans and demands security guarantees from the USA and NATO.

It is Russia’s declared goal, for example, that NATO refrain from further eastward expansion and withdraw its armed forces from eastern alliance states. NATO and the EU reject these demands as unacceptable.

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