President Joe Biden’s administration is considering evacuating family members of U.S. diplomats stationed in Ukraine this week as Russia is poised to invade with approximately 100,000 troops close to Ukraine’s borders.
According to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg on Friday, all family members of diplomatic personnel would be ordered to return home under the plan. Any diplomatic personnel deemed non-essential would also have the option to voluntarily leave.
The evacuation announcement could come in a matter of days, according to Bloomberg’s sources. One source said a decision may not mean the U.S. believes a Russian attack is imminent, but would only represent what the State Department sees as a wise preparation.
The State Department declined a Bloomberg request for comment on the record about the potential evacuation.
In recent days, Russia has reportedly begun pulling its own diplomats and their families from their Embassy in Kyiv and other consulates within Ukraine. On Jan. 5, 18 people — mostly family members of Russian diplomats — reportedly left Kyiv. Days later about 30 more Russian’s reportedly left Kyiv and the Russian consulate in Lviv. Diplomats at two more Russian consulates in Ukraine were also reportedly told to prepare to leave.
The withdrawal of Russian diplomats and their families could indicate a number of possibilities about Russia’s plans in the near future.
The withdrawal could mean Russia is planning to attack soon and wants to move its diplomats out of potential harm’s way in what would become enemy territory.
The Russian withdrawal could also be a pressure technique by Russia to get the U.S. to more seriously consider its conditions for deescalating tensions with Ukraine, particularly by getting a commitment from the U.S. and NATO not to let Ukraine join their alliance. Russian diplomats leaving, in that case, might send the signal that Russia is no longer open to further negotiations and instead wants the U.S. to make a decision.
Other concerning signs of a potential attack in recent days and weeks include Russia reportedly moving more attack helicopters, transport helicopters, fighter jets and logistics units to the Ukrainian border. Russa has also moved troops into Belarus for supposed joint military exercises with the country, which borders Ukraine to the north.
U.S., Ukrainian and NATO officials have all also raised the possibility Russia may stage a “false flag” operation in which secretive Russian units may attack Russia’s own forces, frame Ukraine for the attack, and then use the attack as a pretext for Russia to invade the country.
This week, the Biden White House warned “Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”