After US and UK embassies in Kiev began advising non-essential staff and dependents to leave, the Ukrainian government said there was no need to panic and that a Russian “invasion” did not look imminent at all.
“There is no reason for panic,” said President Volodymyr Zelensky after the meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) on Monday.
“The key message is not to panic,” said Prime Minister Denis Shmygal said.
“I ask everyone to be calm,” said the council’s secretary, Alexey Danilov, adding that Kiev sees no basis for claims of an impending all-out invasion.
There hasn’t been an “active departure” of foreign diplomats from Ukraine, as only three embassies are evacuating some of their staff, Danilov said.
The US and UK governments have confirmed they’ve advised their “non-essential” staff and dependents to leave Kiev, but said this did not amount to an “evacuation.” The distinction apparently failed to reassure the Ukrainians, BuzzFeed reported on Monday, citing an anonymous official close to Zelensky.
“The fact that the US was the first one to announce this is extremely disappointing,” the source is quoted as saying, adding that “quite frankly these Americans are safer in Kiev than they are in Los Angeles ... or any other crime-ridden city in the US.”
Evacuating embassy personnel is a “premature” step and “an instance of excessive caution,” a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
Danilov sought to downplay the threat of a “Russian invasion” in an interview with the BBC published on Monday, noting there are “domestic political events” in the West that might have contributed to the current situation.
The number of Russian troops near the border is “not increasing” and they have maneuvers there “all the time,” Danilov pointed out.
“This is their territory, they have the right to move left and right there. Is it unpleasant for us? Yes, it’s unpleasant, but it’s not news to us. If this is news to someone in the West, I apologize,” he said.
Danilov did say he was “pleased” that the West has acted by sending Ukraine weapons and other “practical assistance” as the result of this “geopolitical process,” but noted that the hype about an impending Russian invasion began after the Washington Post “did not take into account” what he actually said in an interview in late October.