U.S. Allows Most Embassy Staff to Leave Moscow, Minsk Over Ukraine War

By John Feng

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been reduced in size, and diplomatic service in Minsk completely suspended, the State Department said on Monday.

A notice attributed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it “authorized the voluntary departure … of non-emergency employees and family members” from the embassy in Russia’s capital.

“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” it said.

“We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world,” said Blinken.

The U.S. consulates in Yekaterinburg—about 870 miles east of Moscow—and Vladivostok in the Russian Far East had already been suspended in the last two years.

The statement came hours after most of Western Europe closed its airspace to Russian aircraft.

Russian troops have been advancing toward Kyiv since President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale offensive on February 24, but rocket forces inside Russia and Belarus have been directly involved in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, now entering its fifth day.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reported several dozen dead and hundreds more injured on Monday afternoon as a result of Russian rocket attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which is roughly 300 miles west of the capital. Graphic images circulating on social media in the aftermath of the shelling showed civilians with partially missing limbs.

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