Ukrainian officials on Wednesday called on the country’s citizens to leave Russia “immediately,” saying a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could reduce its ability to provide consular services.
The advisory was issued “due to increased Russian aggression against Ukraine which, among other things, may lead to a significant restriction on the ability to provide consular assistance” to Ukrainians in Russia, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry asked Ukrainian citizens to refrain from traveling to the Russian Federation and those currently there to leave “immediately.”
“We emphasize that ignoring these recommendations will significantly complicate ensuring proper protection of Ukrainian citizens in the Russian Federation,” it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday announced that it was recognizing two eastern Ukrainian breakaway regions as “independent” states, along with sending in Russian forces to “maintain peace” there.
The announcements drew widespread global condemnation as violations of the UN Charter and international law, with Western countries announcing new sanctions on Russia.
In 2014, after invading Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Moscow began to support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained for the past seven years. The conflict has taken more than 13,000 lives, according to the UN.
Putin’s latest moves follow Russia amassing some 100,000 troops and heavy equipment in and around its neighbor, with the US and Western countries accusing it of setting the stage for an invasion.
Russia has denied it is preparing an invasion and instead claims Western countries undermined its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.
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