The US has warned that Russia might attack Ukraine “at any time” and that American people should evacuate immediately.
According to the White House, an invasion may begin with aerial bombing, making escape impossible and endangering people.
Despite amassing more than 100,000 troops along the border, Moscow has repeatedly denied any intention of invading Ukraine.
The US declaration led nations across the world to issue new cautions to Ukrainian nationals.
The State Department confirmed in a release that non-essential personnel have been asked to leave the US Embassy in Kyiv. Consular services will be terminated beginning Sunday, however the United States will “will maintain a small consular presence” in the western city of Lviv “to handle emergencies”
Meanwhile, Russia said that it has chosen to “optimise” its diplomatic staff in Ukraine. Fears of “provocations” by Kyiv or other parties were raised by a foreign ministry spokesman.
Diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions are slated to continue on Saturday, with both US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron scheduled to speak by phone with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Moscow has accused the West of inciting panic.
Russian troops are now “in a position to be able to mount a major military action” according to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, in words viewed as a marked increase in the seriousness of US officials’ warnings.
Mr. Sullivan went on to say that the administration didn’t know if Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a final decision to invade, but that the Kremlin was seeking for a pretext to justify military action, which he suggested might begin with heavy aircraft bombing.
His remarks came as US authorities warned of a recent increase of Russian soldiers near Ukraine’s borders, as well as upcoming Russian military drills in the Black Sea.
In the case of Russian intervention, President Biden has stated that he will not send soldiers to rescue any civilians who are left trapped.
The US president convened a video chat with transatlantic leaders on Friday, during which they agreed on coordinated steps to punish Russia economically if it attacked Ukraine.
The US also announced that it was sending another 3,000 troops to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and that they would arrive next week. The troops will not fight in Ukraine, but instead defend US friends in the region.
On Friday, Russian naval manoeuvres were held near Crimea, while a 10-day military exercise in Belarus, to the north of Ukraine, proceeded. Ukraine has accused Russia of obstructing its maritime access.
There are concerns that if Russia decides to invade Ukraine, the drills will bring Russian troops closer to Kyiv, making an attack on the city easier. After the drills, Russia claims its troops will return to their regular posts.
The present tensions are the result of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula eight years ago. Since then, Ukraine’s military has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, close to Russia’s borders.
The Kremlin has stated that it intends to impose “red lines” in order to prevent its former Soviet neighbour from joining NATO.