The US State Department has ordered families of its embassy staff in Ukraine to start leaving the country as soon as Monday, according to media reports.

Fox News, citing US officials, said the State Department is also expected to encourage US citizens to begin evacuating Ukraine next week by commercial flights while they are “still available”.

Late Friday, the US said it delivered some 200,000 pounds of “lethal aid” to Ukraine amid tensions with Russia.

The US Embassy in Kyiv tweeted the photos of the first shipment of military aid promised by US President Joe Biden.

“This shipment includes close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front line defenders of Ukraine,” the embassy wrote.

“The shipment – and $2.7 billion USD since 2014 – demonstrates US commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” it added.

The US alongside its European allies has been warning that Russia is setting the stage for an invasion of Ukraine and has pre-positioned more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine alongside significant artillery and tank deployments. Moscow has denied it is preparing for a military offensive, saying its troops are there for regular exercises.

Russian forces have also amassed in ally Belarus, just north of Ukraine. The Kremlin has maintained that there too troops are taking part in exercises. It has also been steadily building up its force levels in Crimea.

Russia in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in a move that has never been met with international recognition, and which has been decried as illegal under international law.

That year also saw Moscow begin its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, a policy it has continued for eight years.

According to the UN, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has seen more than 13,000 people killed since 2014.

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