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Flurry of embassies decamp to western Ukraine

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Western governments evacuating diplomatic staff from Kyiv are increasingly setting up temporary embassies in Lviv, a Ukrainian city near the Polish border.

The move comes as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine intensify. U.S. President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron separately spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for over an hour each on Saturday as part of a continued effort to deter the Russian president from pursuing military action.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that from Sunday it will “maintain a small consular presence in Lviv, Ukraine to handle emergencies” after on Saturday ordering “the departure of most U.S. direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also said Saturday “we will keep our embassy in [Kyiv] open but reduce our diplomatic staff. Our Consulate General Donetsk, based in Dnipro since 2014, is temporarily being relocated to Lviv.”

The Netherlands similarly announced that while “most embassy personnel will also be leaving Ukraine, a skeleton staff will remain on hand … to issue emergency visas and laissez-passers from its ‘meeting point’ in Lviv.”

But where the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands still plan on maintaining a pared-down diplomatic presence in Kyiv, Australia and Canada are decamping outright.

“Given the deteriorating security situation caused by the build up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border, the government has directed the departure of staff at the Australian Embassy in Kyiv and temporarily suspended operations,” Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Sunday. “We will be moving our operations to a temporary office in Lviv.”

That echoes almost word for word an earlier statement by Canada.

“We will be moving our operations to a temporary office in Lviv and temporarily suspending operations at our embassy in Kyiv,” Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said Saturday.

The EU has designated as essential seven staff at its representation in Kyiv, including Ambassador Matti Maasikas, and for now they will remain in the capital, a EU diplomat said. 

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.

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