US closes embassy in Belarus, agrees to evacuate embassy in Moscow

FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hold a news conference, in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., February 22, 2022. Carolyn Kaster / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

February 28, 2022

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States closed its embassy in Minsk and allowed non-emergency staff and family members to leave its embassy in Moscow on Monday as Russia continued its invasion. Ukraine on Thursday.

“We take these steps due to security and safety concerns stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said.

A photo posted on Twitter by US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher on Monday shows mission personnel lowering the US flag. All US personnel have left Belarus, Fisher wrote on Twitter.

The State Department said US citizens in Belarus should also depart immediately in a separate travel advisory.

Two weeks ago, the United States moved Ukrainian embassy operations from the capital Kyiv to the western city of Lviv as Russian forces gathered on the Ukrainian border.

The latest evacuations come after Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday in the face of Western retaliation for his war. in Ukraine, which said it repelled Russian ground forces from attacking the country’s biggest cities.

On Sunday, the US State Department said US citizens should consider leaving Russia immediately on commercial flights, citing an increasing number of airlines canceling flights and countries closing their airspace to the US. Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia on Monday banned airlines from 36 countries from using Russian airspace.

European nations and Canada on Sunday decided to close their airspace to Russian planes. US officials said the US is considering similar action but has not made a final decision yet.

US officials on Monday warned Belarus would also face consequences for its role in supporting Russia’s offensive as Washington and its allies escalate severe economic sanctions against Moscow. The EU also warned it would impose new sanctions on Belarus this week.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; editing by Susan Heavey; Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Heavens) US closes embassy in Belarus, agrees to evacuate embassy in Moscow

Bobby Allyn

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