(PresidentialHill.com)- On Monday, the State Department announced that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been reduced in its size, while all diplomatic services in Minsk, Belarus, have been suspended as well.
Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, sent a notice earlier this week that said the department “authorized the voluntary departure … of non-emergency employees and family members” from Moscow’s embassy.
“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine. We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world.”
The announcement out of the State Department came just a few hours after many Western European countries said they were closing their airspace to all Russian aircraft.
The State Department closed the diplomatic services in Belarus, too, because officials in the U.S. believe that Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, will likely allow his country’s soldiers to join the war on the Russian side. Belarus is a close ally of Russia, and it has already allowed Russian troops to station there and mount and offensive on Ukraine from their country.
To this point, many Western countries have been placing severe economic sanctions on Russia, its President Vladimir Putin and many other wealthy and influential individuals and companies in Russia. The effects have already had a crippling effect on Russia’s economy, with the country’s currency — the ruble — plunging to the lowest it’s ever been earlier this week.
That deep decrease came after Russia was cut off from the international SWIFT payment system, while at the same time, its central bank was banned from using any foreign currency reserves.
Concurrently, other European countries have begun to bar Russian aircraft and ships from their airspace and waters in an attempt to physically cut them off from the region. Russia tried to respond by barring any European airlines from traveling into Russia.
The United States has been putting severe sanctions on Russia, and has been moving some its troops already stationed in Europe closer to the region. However, the only action within Russia thus far taken by the U.S. is to encourage all citizens to leave the country as soon as they can.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow urged every American citizen to leave Russia. In a release recently, the Embassy said:
“An increasing number of airlines are canceling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also forced many Ukrainians to leave their own country in search of shelter. The UN Refugee Agency said earlier this week that more than 500,000 people have already fled from Ukraine just since last week.
More than half of those people went to Poland, while others went to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia.