UPDATED: U.S. State Department orders non-emergency embassy staff to leave Ukraine as Germany as well tells citizens to leave

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The U.S. State Department has ordered non-emergency U.S. embassy staff to leave Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia, the embassy said on Saturday.

“Despite the reduction in diplomatic staff, the core embassy team, our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues, and @StateDept and U.S. personnel around the world will continue relentless diplomatic and assistance efforts in support of Ukraine’s security, democracy, and prosperity,” it said on Twitter.

Germany urged its citizens on Saturday to leave Ukraine unless saying was absolutely necessary.

“Germans staying there are urged to consider leaving the country,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter.

British nationals who choose to stay in Ukraine should not expect a military evacuation if conflict with Russia ensues, junior defence minister James Heappey told Sky News on Saturday.

“British nationals should leave Ukraine immediately by any means possible and they should not expect, as they saw in the summer with Afghanistan, that there would be any possibility of a military evacuation,” he said.

On Friday the UK government advised British nationals to leave Ukraine now while commercial means were still available and advised against all further travel to the country.

The United States and its allies urged their citizens to leave Ukraine right away to avoid a Russian invasion, including a possible air assault, that Washington said on Friday could occur anytime.

Moscow accused Western nations of spreading lies to distract from their own aggressive acts.

The United States and Europe stepped up their warnings of an imminent attack while the Kremlin, jostling for more influence in post-Cold War Europe, rejected a joint EU-NATO diplomatic response to its demands to reduce tensions as disrespectful.

Australia and New Zealand became the latest countries to urge their citizens to leave as soon as possible, joining Britain, Japan, Latvia, Norway and the Netherlands. Israel said it was evacuating relatives of embassy staff.

Earlier, President Joe Biden said U.S. citizens should leave Ukraine now and he would not sent troops to rescue Americans fleeing the country if Russia invades.

“Things could go crazy quickly” in Ukraine, Biden told NBC News in an interview.

The United States has urged Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately due to the “increased threats of Russian military action” against Ukraine.

“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19; those in Ukraine should depart now via commercial or private means,” the U.S. State Department said in an advisory.

Russia denies planning an attack on Ukraine but has amassed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine.

Photo – Ukrainian serviceman Anastasia (21) rests in a shelter on a front line near the Avdiivka village, not far from pro-Russian militants controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/STAS KOZLYUK

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