'It is past time to leave': U.S. tells Americans to flee Ukraine and evacs embassy staff

Saturday’s evacuation order follows a series of warning signs on Friday, from Biden administration officials saying an invasion could happen before the conclusion of the Olympics on Feb. 20 and the Pentagon sending 3,000 more troops to Poland.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday morning from Camp David.

Family members of US embassy staff had already been ordered to depart Kyiv, but the State Department had left it up to nonessential staff if they wanted to leave.

The State Department again on Saturday urged Americans to evacuate Ukraine through private and commercial means, warning that the government would not be able to help US citizens leave if Russia moves forward with military action.

“Our ability to help them through that crisis, during that crisis, is going to be extremely limited, and they cannot have any reasonable expectation that the US government is going to be able to rescue them if they find themselves in harm’s way in a war zone,” a senior State Department official said.

In the past 24 hours, multiple other countries — including Israel, Germany and the UK — have been encouraging their citizens to leave and reducing their diplomatic presence. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Saturday that Russia intends to “optimize” its embassy staff in Ukraine — an indication Moscow, too, was reducing its diplomatic presence in Ukraine for now.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday, reiterating that “a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open” if Moscow decided to deescalate and engage in diplomatic discussions.

“He reiterated that Moscow should pursue the path of aggression and further invade Ukraine, it would result in a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response,” the readout said.

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