US urges citizens not to travel to Ukraine due to COVID, Russia’s military buildup
U.S. citizens are advised not to travel to Ukraine due to the twin threats of the COVID-19 disease and Russia’s ominous military buildup – both near the country’s borders and inside parts of Ukraine occupied by Kremlin forces.
The U.S. State Department travel advisory for Ukraine remains a “Level 4: Do not travel” due to COVID-19, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Dec. 20.
“The State Department has updated (the travel advisory) to include information on Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border just to provide additional information. But it (was already at) Level 4,” she said.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on Dec. 20 reported that “the Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine due to COVID-19 and to reconsider travel due to increased threats from Russia.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 25 issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Ukraine due to COVID-19, indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country.
Moreover, since late October, Russia has been massing troops at the Russian-Ukrainian border.
As of Dec. 3, about 100,000 Russian soldiers were deployed near the Russian-Ukrainian border and in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donbas, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in Ukraine’s parliament.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.
Both U.S. and European officials have expressed concern over the situation. U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that the White House is working out “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”
During his talks with Putin on Dec. 7, Biden “made it clear the United States and its allies will respond with decisive economic and other measures in the case of a military escalation,” the White House said.
On Dec. 12, G7 ambassadors issued an official statement warning the Kremlin that there would be “massive consequences and a severe cost” if Russia carried out further military aggression against Ukraine.
In addition, in a resolution adopted on Dec. 16, the European Parliament called for the imposition of “severe economic and financial sanctions against the Russian government to address immediate threats, rather than waiting for another invasion to take place before taking action.”
According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov, Russia continued the buildup of its troops after the Biden-Putin talks.
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