The European Union (EU) told its non-essential staff in Ukraine to leave the country amid escalating tensions with Russia, a spokesperson confirmed on Friday.

“We continue to assess the situation as it develops in line with the duty of care we have towards our staff and in close consultation and coordination with the EU member states,” Peter Stano, a spokesman for the EU’s foreign service, said.

The EU has not yet issued an evacuation order. “We are not evacuating. For the time being, the non-essential staff have been given the opportunity to telework from outside the country,” Stano said, according to AFP reports. 

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The decision comes amid increasing tension with Russia and the threat of an invasion getting more prominent by the day.   

The EU envoy to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, sent a message to the staff in Kyiv on Friday, advising them to leave. “Having exchanged with the headquarters in Brussels, I have urged all expat colleagues with the exception of the essential staff … to leave Ukraine ASAP to telework from outside the country. I feel very sad,” he said in the email accessed by EUobserver. 

Meanwhile, reports suggest that the Joe Biden-led US government strongly believes that Russia could invade Ukraine before the Beijing Winter Olympics end on February 20. Russian President Vladimir Putin is yet to arrive at a decision, the US officials have said.

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Satellite imagery has shown that Russia has amassed even more troops along the Ukraine border  

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security advisor, noted that the situation in Ukraine is currently tense enough to warn Americans to evacuate in the next 24 to 48 hours. 

As per NBC, Sullivan spoke at the White House briefing, saying “We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border. As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it.” 

Also Read: Biden, Putin to talk over phone on Saturday to discuss Ukraine crisis

Notably, several countries including Israel, Canada, the US, and Australia have already evacuated their non-essential diplomats from Ukraine. The EU had waited until now to advise its staff to leave in order to show solidarity with Kyiv, according to EUobservor.