The United States is withdrawing almost all of its remaining troops from Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Saturday, as tensions soar over a possible Russian invasion of the Eastern European country.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has ordered the temporary repositioning of the 160 members of the Florida National Guard” who were in the country “to advise and mentor Ukrainian forces,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. , in a press release.
The troops – which Kirby said were being withdrawn “with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind” – will be repositioned “elsewhere in Europe”.
Since 2015, US National Guard reservists have been advising and training the Ukrainian military alongside soldiers from other NATO countries, including Canada and Germany.
“This repositioning does not mean a change in our resolve to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility to reassure allies and deter aggression,” Kirby said.
Earlier Saturday, the United States ordered all non-emergency Kyiv embassy staff to leave the country due to the threat of a Russian invasion.
The notice also repeated an earlier call by US President Joe Biden for Americans to leave the former Soviet republic immediately.
The State Department has ‘ordered the departure of most direct-recruited American employees of the embassy in Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action,’ it said in a travel advisory. update.
“The Department of State will suspend consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,” he said, adding that a small consular presence would be maintained in Lviv, western Ukraine, to handle emergencies.
Weeks of tension, in which Russia surrounded its western neighbor with more than 100,000 troops, escalated as the Kremlin launched its biggest naval drills in years across the Black Sea.
Washington issued its most serious warning to date on Friday, saying Russia had gathered enough forces to launch a serious assault.
“Our view that military action could take place any day now, and could take place before the end of the Olympics, is only growing in terms of robustness,” warned the US adviser to the national security, Jake Sullivan.
Washington has stressed that it will not send US troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack, meaning it will not be able to organize evacuation plans for its citizens if war breaks out.