As the war in Ukraine’s east becomes the focus of Russian forces, the U.S. State Department has announced it’s redeploying diplomats in-country. The move comes as the Biden administration announced an additional $33 billion in U.S. weapons and aid, contingent on congressional approval, as Washington signals it’s in it for the long haul as a key ally to Ukraine.
Early Monday, Kristina Kvien, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, made the trip to the western city of Lviv and spoke at a press conference in the city center with the mayor.
“I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be back in Ukraine,” Kvien told a large crowd of locals. “[Russian President] Putin made a historic miscalculation in his unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”
In mid-February, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the removal of all diplomatic personnel in Ukraine as the Russian military amassed thousands of troops along its neighboring borders before it launched the brutal invasion.
Over the weekend Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised that American diplomats not only would return to Lviv but planned to be in the capital Kyiv—a city that not a month ago was under heavy Russian aerial and artillery bombardment—by the end of May. Several other governments have resumed embassy activities in Kyiv, the U.K. being the first to do so, in April. Last week, both Blinken and Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin III met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, where Austin declared the U.S. wanted to “weaken” Russia militarily as it carried on it in its war in Ukraine.
There were questions whether U.S. troops would accompany State officials into Ukraine, a typical move as they act as protective guards for diplomats. The Pentagon wouldn’t clarify whether that was happening but explained to VICE News that it wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“When U.S. military members, specifically Marine Corps security guards, protect U.S. diplomatic missions, they fall under the operational control of the State Department, specifically, their Diplomatic Security Service,” a spokesperson said before referring the matter to the State Department.
State has yet to respond to whether Marines were accompanying Kvien and other diplomats into Ukraine or if there were plans to.
Of course, any U.S. soldiers in Ukraine, whether in a protective capacity or otherwise, face the risk of contact with Russian forces, or coming under fire in a munitions attack. On the same day that UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited Kyiv, Russian shells rained down on targets in the city.