Russia begins evacuating its diplomatic staff from Ukraine

Russia has begun evacuating its diplomatic staff from Ukraine at a time when fears of an invasion by Moscow are growing, the embassy told AFP on Wednesday.

Asked if the evacuation had started, embassy spokesman Denis Golenko replied “yes” in a telephone conversation with AFP.

The Russian flag was no longer flying on the roof of the diplomatic building and several people were seen leaving the building with suitcases.

Golenko said several Western embassies had also evacuated some of their staff and Moscow had decided to do the same “temporarily.”

Russia announced on Tuesday its intention to evacuate its diplomats from Ukraine, accusing local authorities of not doing enough to guarantee their safety.

The decision comes amid an acute crisis between the two countries after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Ukrainian separatists from Donetsk and Lugansk, two pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine and Western countries accuse Moscow of preparing a military offensive against its neighbor after Russia posted some 150,000 troops on the border.

In recent weeks, due to the escalation of tension, several Western countries have evacuated the relatives of diplomats in Ukraine or moved their headquarters from Kiev to Lviv, a city located in the west of the country and which is considered safer in case of a Russian attack.

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