A reporter asked State Department spokesman Ned Price if the Biden administration is playing “pretend” in Ukraine during a press briefing Monday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday the U.S. is moving its embassy operations in Ukraine from the capital city, Kyiv, to Lviv, due to a “dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces” at Ukraine’s border. Los Angeles Times foreign affairs correspondent Tracy Wilkinson asked Price if moving the embassy operations was just a way for the Biden administration to “pretend” it will be maintaining a presence in the country ahead of a potential Russian invasion.
“Is it a way to just sort of pretend you still have a presence in the country?”
Price answered that was not the case and said that the move was a “matter of geography.” He explained that Lviv was in a more defensible area of the country than Kyiv and that the administration believes it is safer for the “core team” it’s keeping there to carry out embassy services.
“The buildup of forces on Ukraine’s eastern borders, the buildup of forces along its northern border with Belarus, of course that has implications for large swathes of Ukraine including Kyiv,” Price said. “We have made the determination to move our operations to Lviv out of consideration for the safety and security of our personnel on the ground.” (RELATED: Biden Administration Briefs Top Members Of Congress Amid Reports Of Imminent Ukraine Invasion)
Lviv, Ukraine’s seventh largest city by population, is located roughly 300 miles further west than Kyiv, putting significantly more distance between it and the Belarusian and Russian borders than the Ukrainian capital has. The city is also less than 50 miles from the Polish border. The U.S. has moved additional troops into Poland, and the State Department announced Saturday that Americans leaving Ukraine could enter Poland without advanced notice.
American officials have repeatedly warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent, a view which has been contradicted by the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky jokingly said Monday that the Russians would begin their invasion Wednesday, Feb. 16.