U.S. troops stand next to U.S. Army Stryker wheeled tanks in the Grafenwoehr training area.

Armin Weigel photo union Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered US troops stationed in Ukraine last year to leave the country and move elsewhere in Europe.

The new marching order comes as approximately 100,000 Russian troops equipped with advanced weapons lines on Ukraine’s eastern border and the northern border with Belarus, an ally of Moscow.

In November, 160 members of the Florida National Guard, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade, were stationed in Ukraine to train with local forces.

“The secretary made this decision with great caution – especially the safety and security of our staff – and was informed by the guidelines of the US Department of State for US personnel,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“This repositioning does not mean a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s armed forces, but it will provide flexibility in securing allies and deterring aggression,” he added.

Earlier on Saturday, a senior State Department official said diplomatic staff at the US embassy in Kiev would be reduced to a “pure minimum”.

The official, who requested anonymity to share details of the State Department’s position in Ukraine, also issued new warnings to US citizens who have not yet left the country.

“It is high time for private citizens to leave Ukraine,” said a senior State Department official.

“American citizens should not expect the US military to save them in Ukraine at the last minute. This will not happen in this scenario. And so it is time to leave Ukraine,” the official added.

View shows the US Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, January 24, 2022.

Gleb Garanic Reuters

“We are doing a lot to provide support to our fellow citizens. But as you know, there are real limits to what we can do in a war zone,” he said.

The Polish government also seems to have removed requirements for American citizens to enter Ukraine. According to a Buzzfeed reporterThe State Department sent a notice to Americans in Ukraine late Saturday, again urging them to leave, saying they could enter Poland without prior approval.

“Poland has told the US government that American citizens can now enter Poland via the land border with Ukraine. No prior approval is required,” the note said.

Several other nations, including the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom, are also urging their citizens to leave the Eastern European country. The Dutch airline KLM on Saturday canceled flights to Kiev indefinitely. The airline cites travel risks and an “extensive safety analysis”.

Calls early in the morning

Several talks were held between Washington and Moscow early in the morning.

The Pentagon said Austin had discussed “the build-up of Russian forces in Crimea and around Ukraine” with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Similarly, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is currently on a diplomatic trip to Fiji, spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and warned that further Russian aggression would be met with a “decisive, massive and united transatlantic response.”

The White House said President Joe Biden’s conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin began at 11:04 a.m. ET and lasted about an hour.

President Biden spoke with President Vladimir Putin today to clarify that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our allies will impose swift and serious costs on Russia.

Courtesy of the White House

A report from the White House said Biden had made it clear that if Russia undertook a further invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its allies and partners would impose “quick and heavy costs on Russia.”

Biden said that as long as the United States remains ready to engage in diplomacy, “we are equally prepared for other scenarios.”

On Friday, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called on all Americans still in Ukraine to leave immediately.

Sullivan warned that Putin could order an invasion of his former Soviet neighbor “every day.”

For months, the United States and its Western allies have seen a steady build-up of Kremlin forces on Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus. The increased military presence mimics Russia’s actions before the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, a Black Sea peninsula that sparked international noise and sparked sanctions against Moscow.

The Kremlin has denied deploying troops as a prelude to an attack and instead described the movement as a military exercise.

Last month, senior Pentagon officials warned that the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be “appalling.”

“Given the type of forces that are deployed, the ground maneuvering forces, the artillery, the ballistic missiles, the air force, all together. If this is unleashed against Ukraine, it would be significant, very important and would result in a significant number of casualties, “General Mark Mark Millie, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on January 28.

“It would be horrible,” Millie added.

Mili, the country’s top military officer, said Russia’s position on the border with Ukraine was unlike anything he had seen in his 40-year military career.

He said the Russians had deployed air force, navy, special forces, cyber-electronic warfare, command and control, logistics engineers and other capabilities along the border with Ukraine.

Against the backdrop of the Kremlin’s deployment, the United States and European allies have repeatedly threatened to impose swift and severe economic consequences if Putin orders an attack on Ukraine.

“He is [Putin] “I’ve never seen sanctions like the ones I promised,” Biden said last month when asked about potential US economic measures. The president said a “catastrophe” awaited Russia if an attack on Ukraine occurred.

Russian officials have repeatedly called on the United States to prevent NATO’s military alliance from expanding eastward.

Russia has also called on the United States “not to establish military bases” in the territories of former Soviet states that are not yet members of NATO, or “to use their infrastructure for any military activities or to develop bilateral military cooperation with them.” .

Since 2002, Ukraine has sought to join NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance. The clause in Article 5 of the group states that an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them.

The United States and NATO have said such a request could not be granted.

– Jessica Bursztynski of CNBC contributed to this report.