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White House Warns Americans In Ukraine: ‘Depart Immediately,’ U.S. Military Will Not Evacuate Those Who ‘Could Have Left’

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned Americans in Ukraine Friday that a Russian invasion of the former soviet state could begin at any moment, and the U.S. military will not evacuate Americans still in the country after war breaks out.

Sullivan delivered the remarks during a press briefing minutes before President Joe Biden departed for Camp David, the presidential retreat. Sullivan’s warning comes as the Russian military forces have amassed on Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, setting off alarm bells in Kiev.

“We are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it. I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information, but I do want to be clear, it could begin during the Olympics despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics. As we’ve said before, we are ready either way,” Sullivan said.

The White House adviser said that direct military action on the part of the United States is off the table in the event of a Russian invasion. Instead, the United States would work with allies in Europe and elsewhere to put “severe economic sanctions” on Russia.

“[The joint response] would also include changes to NATO and American force posture along the eastern flank of NATO, and it would include continued support to Ukraine,” Sullivan said.

He issued a stark warning to Americans still in Ukraine: get out now or you may never get the chance. He emphasized that Biden would not “be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to.” Sullivan said:

We encourage all American citizens who remain in Ukraine to depart immediately. We want to be crystal clear on this point: Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible and in any event in the next 24-48 hours. We obviously cannot predict the future. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but the risk is now high enough, the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands. If you stay, you are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave and no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion. If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality. A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force. With virtually no notice, communications to arrange a departure could be severed and commercial transit halted. No one would be able to count on air or rail or road departures once military action got under way. Now, again, I’m not standing here and saying what is going to happen or not happen, I am only standing here to say that the risk is now high enough and the threat is immediate enough that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now while commercial options and commercial rail and air service exists, while the roads are open. The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to.

Russia has roughly 100,000 troops stationed along its border with Ukraine. Another contingent of troops began conducting joint military exercises in Belarus to Ukraine’s north earlier this week.

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