Ned Price, the agency’s spokesman, said at a press conference that much like the situation in Afghanistan the US government had no tally of the total number of people with US citizenship living or temporarily staying in Ukraine as the US government has no requirements for Americans to register their foreign travel or movements.
He also made no mention of further plans to evacuate American citizens or other persons from the country following news that the US was recalling all non-emergency personnel from its embassy complex in Kiev.
“Right now, we do not have what we consider to be an accurate count of Americans, private Americans, who are residing in Ukraine,” said Mr Price.
Mr Price was also asked during the briefing if the Biden administration had taken “any lessons” from the chaotic scenes that unfolded in Kabul as Afghanistan’s US-backed government collapsed under a Taliban offensive. The final hours of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan left the Biden administration stinging from questions from reporters about why more was not done to ensure that anyone with American citizenship or a visa to travel to the country was not extricated from the city before Kabul fell to the Taliban.
The State Department spokesman declined to make a comparison between the two situations, which he said were “not analogous”. Still, the same questions about the US government’s ability to accurately get in contact with and count US citizens thought to be in conflict areas were present at Monday’s briefings as the White House, Defense Department and Department of State all faced questions about the potential for Russian military action.
Regarding the withdrawal of US embassy personnel in Kiev, Mr Price declined to answer whether the US had any specific intelligence to indicate that Ukraine’s capital was a potential target for violence.
In the event of any form of incursion into Ukrainian territory by Russian forces, Mr Price warned that the US response would be “unprecedented”.
‘In the event of Russian aggression against Ukraine, there will be a response. It will be swift, it will be severe, in the event of an incursion it will be unprecedented in the terms of the steps we will be prepared to take,” said the spokesman.
The State Department is currently warning US citizens against travel to the region “due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19”. Some areas are also classified as being at risk of experiencing civil unrest.
“On January 23, 2022, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. U.S. citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” reads the agency’s website.
“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine. The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” it continues.