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US authorizes leave for staff at embassy in Russia, suspends operations in Minsk

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The State Department announced Monday that it was suspending operations at the US Embassy in Minsk, Belarus and authorizing departure for non-emergency employees and family members at the Embassy in Moscow due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

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The latest move comes after the US Embassy in Russia called on Americans to leave “immediately” due to airlines canceling flights into and out of Russia and several countries banning Russian airlines from using their airspace.

“US citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” the Embassy warned in a statement on Sunday.

The United States already closed its embassy in Kyiv as Russia prepared the invasion and has been calling for weeks for American citizens in Ukraine to get out.

A small team of US diplomats is handling embassy affairs from the western city Lviv, near the border with Poland.

In mid-February the US State Department also urged Americans in Belarus to leave that country.

The US embassies in the Belarus capital Minsk and Moscow were already operating at a reduced level because of tit for tit diplomat expulsions going back several years.

Read more: US sanctions Russia’s Putin, Lavrov and other top officials after Ukraine invasion

- With AFP

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