Australia evacuates final Ukraine embassy staff

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media. File photo

Gulf Today Report

Australia temporarily suspended operations at its embassy in Kyiv and evacuated staff, as Russia continued to build up troops on its border with Ukraine.

Australia has directed all remaining embassy staff in Kyiv to evacuate, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

The evacuation follows similar announcements from the United States and Canada, and comes after a frenzy of telephone diplomacy failed to ease mounting regional tensions Saturday.


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Russia has nearly surrounded its western neighbour with more than 100,000 troops.

Tensions intensified after Washington warned that an all-out invasion could begin “any day” and Russia launched its biggest naval drills in years across the Black Sea.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during an event. File photo

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday the risk of Russian military action in Ukraine is high and imminent enough to justify the departure of much of the staff at US embassy in Kyiv, which the State Department announced earlier.

Speaking at a news conference in Honolulu, where he met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Blinken reiterated that the diplomatic path with Russia over Ukraine remained open and the way to pursue that was for Moscow to de-escalate.

Morrison said Australia would shift its operations to Lviv, a city close to Ukraine’s border with Poland that is about 540 kilometres (336 miles) east of Kyiv.

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Senior Airman palletises ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine. File/AP

He said the three remaining staff in Kyiv had been supporting “the many Australians [in Ukraine], many of whom are dual citizens”.

“The situation, as you are all hearing, is deteriorating, and is reaching a very dangerous stage,” he said.

While decrying “the autocratic, unilateral actions of Russia”, the prime minister also pivoted back to regional politics, criticising China for “remaining chillingly silent on Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian border”.

“The coalition of autocracies that we’re seeing, seeking to bully other countries, is not something that Australia ever takes a light position on,” Morrison said.

Australia Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated calls for Australians to leave Ukraine immediately, warning that “security conditions could change at short notice.”

 

 

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