British embassy in Ukraine temporarily moved out of Kyiv amid invasion fears
Written by First Choice Radio on 19 February 2022
The British embassy in Kyiv has been “temporarily” relocated as international anxiety about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to fester.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has announced that UK officials will “temporarily” relocate from the Ukraine capital to Lviv in the west of the country.
It comes amid growing concern that Russia could invade Ukraine, with reports of 150,000 of Moscow’s troops situated at the border and warnings from the US that an attack could be only days away.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that the White House has reason to believe Russian forces “intend to attack” Ukraine in the coming days, including targeting Kyiv.
Mr Biden said he was “convinced” Russian president Vladimir Putin had “made the decision” to move troops across the border.
The UK Foreign Office, announcing the decision to move Ukraine-based diplomats to Lviv, near the border with Poland, said in a statement posted on Gov.uk: “The British embassy office in Kyiv is temporarily relocating.
“Embassy staff are operating from the British embassy office in Lviv.”
The Foreign Office is also advising “against all but essential travel” to Belarus – a close ally of Russia – and the Transnistria region, an unrecognised breakaway state within Moldova, which both neighbour Ukraine.
British nationals in Ukraine continue to be urged to leave while commercial routes out are still available.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Germany on Saturday to join world leaders at the Munich Security Conference, where he is expected to push for unity among western nations in their approach to punishing the Kremlin should it order Russian forces into Ukraine.
The summit will take place against the backdrop of Mr Putin continuing to parade Russia’s military might.
The Russian defence ministry has announced it will be carrying out fresh exercises on Saturday involving its strategic nuclear forces.
Mr Putin will observe the drills involving multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in a demonstration that Russia remains a nuclear superpower.
The Russian leader has insisted that the large-scale military exercises with Belarusian forces close to the Ukrainian border are “purely defensive” and do not represent a threat to any other country.
Andrei Kelin, the Russian ambassador to the UK, also looked to downplay talk of a conflict breaking out in an interview on Friday, saying he was “sure that the war will not happen”.
He told Times Radio: “We are totally sure that absolutely 100% this will not happen.”
But Mr Kelin hinted that the planned “wrap-up” of military drills by Sunday was not assured if there were “provocations”, although he did not state what they could be.
However, he said such tensions could be resolved by “negotiations” rather than fighting.
There are concerns among western allies that the Kremlin could use “disinformation” to justify an offensive, particularly with growing activity in separatist-held areas of Ukraine.
UK Security Minister Damian Hinds said allies must be “steeled” for Moscow to produce “some sort of spurious justification for an attack” as he told broadcasters there is “no sign” of Russia withdrawing its armed forces.
It comes as the UK Government said it had concluded the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) – the country’s spy agency – had been involved in a cyber attack on the Ukrainian banking sector this week.
An FCDO spokesman said the attempts to disrupt Kyiv’s financial services on February 15 and 16 was “yet another example of Russia’s aggressive acts against Ukraine” and called the behaviour “unacceptable”.
In a further sign of escalating tensions within Ukraine, Russian-backed separatist rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions said they were evacuating civilians to Russia.
Denish Pushilin, the head of the separatist government in the Donetsk region, said women, children and the elderly will be evacuated first, and that Russia has prepared facilities to accommodate them.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the situation was “potentially very dangerous”.
A strong explosion was also reported on Friday in the centre of the city of Donetsk. There were no immediate details on casualties or where it took place.
The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists erupted in 2014 following the ousting of the pro-Moscow government in Kyiv and has killed more than 14,000 people.
Published: by Radio NewsHub