The Pentagon has ordered U.S. military advisers stationed in Ukraine to depart as the Biden administration warns that a Russian invasion of the country is increasingly imminent.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the temporary repositioning of 160 members of the Florida National Guard to other countries in Europe, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said Saturday.
“The Secretary made this decision out of an abundance of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind — and informed by the State Department’s guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine,” Mr. Kirby said.
He said the repositioning “does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression.”
The troops, who are assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, have been in Ukraine since late November as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.
The order comes just hours before President Biden’s high-stakes phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The State Department earlier Saturday ordered all non-emergency employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine to evacuate as the Biden administration warns that a Russian invasion of the country is increasingly imminent.
“Despite the reduction in diplomatic staff, the core embassy team, our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues, and @StateDept and U.S. personnel around the world will continue relentless diplomatic and assistance efforts in support of Ukraine’s security, democracy, and prosperity,” the State Department said in a tweet.
Consulate services at the embassy, including passport, visa, or routine service, will also be suspended, the State Department said in a follow-up advisory. A small “consular presence” in Lviv, Ukraine will be open to handle emergencies, the advisory said.