On Monday, the US State Department updated its recommendations for the country, warning that “citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.”
Americans were informed that this “would severely impact the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services,” including assisting people in departing from the region in an emergency.
The travel notice also continued to advise against travel due to the Covid-19 risk in Ukraine, a recommendation in place for several months. Guidance urging US citizens to rethink their journey to the former Soviet republic because of its high rates of coronavirus infection had been issued at the end of September.
The advisory came after Kiev’s intelligence services and Western officials sounded the alarm in recent weeks, insisting that Moscow could soon launch an all-out offensive against its neighbor. However, the Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the accusations, instead arguing that the prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO destabilizes the situation.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned at the beginning of December that the further expansion of the organization toward Russia is a red line, and that Ukraine’s hopes to be admitted were unacceptable. She accused the US of pulling Kiev into the orbit of the military bloc and turning it into a “bridgehead” of confrontation with Russia, which she warned could cause conflict on the European continent.
Last month, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov slammed the reports in Anglophone media as groundless and “hysteria.” He previously remarked that “the movement of our armed forces on our own territory should be of no concern to anyone,” and that Russia poses neither a danger nor a threat to any other country.
A publication from US news site Politico, which alleged Russian troops were being stationed in increasing numbers near the Ukrainian border, came under fire from officials in November. Satellite imagery published alongside the article purported to show hardware amassing near the city of Yelnya, which is located hundreds of kilometers from Ukraine, and is actually closer to Belarus.
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