By John Feng
The US embassy in Moscow has been reduced and the diplomatic service in Minsk completely suspended, the State Department announced on Monday.
A notice attributed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he “authorized the voluntary departure … of non-emergency employees and family members” from the embassy in the Russian capital.
“We took these measures due to security and safety concerns resulting from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” he said.
“Ultimately, we have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world,” Blinken said.
US consulates in Yekaterinburg – about 870 miles east of Moscow – and Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East had already been suspended for the past two years.
The statement came hours after most of Western Europe closed its airspace to Russian planes.
Russian troops have been advancing towards Kiev 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, which is now entering its fifth day.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reported several dozen dead and hundreds more injured on Monday afternoon following Russian rocket attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, located about 300 miles west of the capital. Graphic images circulating on social media following the bombardment showed civilians with partially missing limbs.
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