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Biden admin planning ‘emergency’ exit from Ukraine over Russian invasion

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Schultz/White House) | Russian President Vladimir Putin during virtual meetings on March 18, 2021. (Kremlin/Released)
December 30, 2021

The United States Embassy in Kyiv is working on “emergency preparations” in the event it must evacuate non-emergency personnel or diplomats’ families due to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, internal emails obtained by ABC News revealed this week.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin considers “diverse” military options related to Ukraine, the embassy is preparing for “permanent staff [to] continue Emergency Preparations in case of Authorized or Ordered Departure,” which allows diplomats’ families and non-emergency personnel to move because of a threat.  

A State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration is “conducting normal contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation severely deteriorates.” However, they are not “currently considering evacuations of U.S. government personnel or American citizens from Ukraine.”

In December, the State Department took additional steps to ensure Americans’ safety abroad, updating its travel advisory for Ukraine to have a warning over “increased threats from Russia.”

The warning says, “U.S. citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.”

President Biden will speak with President Putin on Thursday amid rising tensions over Ukraine. It will be the second conversation between the two world leaders this month.

The phone meeting was requested by Putin as part of an attempt to deescalate tensions and prevent an invasion of Ukraine, but tens of thousands of troops still remain at Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The Biden administration is relying on deterrence and diplomacy to stop Putin from invading the neighboring nation. In a preview of the call, the White House said Biden will warn again that the U.S. is ready to respond if Russia invades Ukraine.

A senior administration official said they “cannot speak to why the Russian side has requested the call,” adding that both Biden and Putin believe there is “genuine value in direct leader to leader engagement.”

“I think we are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now given the Russian build-up and that it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation,” the official told reporters Wednesday.

U.S. and Russian diplomats will also meet on Jan. 10 to address security concerns.

“Open lines of dialogue, open lines of diplomacy have the potential to be constructive as we seek to de-escalate the potential for conflict in and around Ukraine,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

NATO plans to meet with Russia on Jan. 12 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will meet on Jan. 13.

“The Biden administration continues to engage in extensive diplomacy with our European allies and partners, consulting and coordinating on a common approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine,” Emily Horne, Biden’s National Security Council spokesperson, said in a statement.

Several European allies have demanded more involvement in the rising tensions in Eastern Europe. Top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell told the German newspaper Die Welt that the union “must be involved in these negotiations.”   

“It’s about us. This is not simply the case for two states, i.e. America and Russia, or NATO and Russia — even if Moscow imagines it,” he continued.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated the United States’ “unwavering” support for Ukraine and “discussed efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” referencing the calls between Biden and Putin.