Moscow claims everything is normal after report says Russia has been quietly emptying out its diplomatic outposts in Ukraine
- Russia has been slowly emptying out its embassy in Kyiv, The New York Times reported this week.
- Russia has reportedly pulled nearly 50 people out and may be preparing for more departures.
- Moscow denied the new report, arguing that its diplomatic outposts are operating normally.
A new report says Russia has been quietly reducing staff at its embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv amid fears of an impending conflict, but Moscow denies it, arguing that the diplomatic outpost is operating normally.
The New York Times reported this week a group of 18 people, largely family members of Russian diplomats, left Ukraine for Moscow on January 5. Over the next few days, around 30 more people from Kyiv and the consulate in Lviv reportedly departed.
And diplomats at two other outposts in Ukraine have been instructed to prepare to leave, The Times reported, citing a senior Ukrainian security official.
US and Ukrainian officials reportedly said that the Russian move could be interpreted as preparation for conflict, a feint, or some sort of propaganda move, if not some mixture of the three. In an outbreak of war, embassy staff could become prisoners of war or targets for information via interrogation.
Russia has denied the report from The New York Times, telling Russian media outlet Interfax that the embassy in Kyiv is operating normally.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Tuesday that "despite the provocations and the aggressive behavior of local radicals, I repeat that our missions are operating as usual."
The Ukrainian foreign ministry told Reuters it had not received any word from Moscow about an evacuation of its embassy and consulates and that it did not have any plans to thin out or evacuate its diplomatic outposts in Russia.
Reports that Russia may be thinning out its outposts in Ukraine come as high-level talks between Russia and the US and NATO over the past week have reached an impasse, stalling with no clear solution on the table. Russia continues to maintain a significant troop presence near the Ukrainian border.
Russia has repeatedly denied having plans to invade its neighbor, but the international community hardly persuaded. A senior US diplomat told her Russian counterpart last week that Russia could prove it had no hostile intentions toward Ukraine by pulling the roughly 100,000 troops it has in the area away from the Ukrainian border.
Russia has so far made no commitment to de-escalation, often presenting itself as the victim while making security demands of the US and NATO they have said they cannot accept .
Some US officials and experts have put forward the idea that talks were destined for failure and that Russia may have been planning to use them as a pretext for conflict , and on Friday, it was reported that US intelligence indicated that Russia had positioned operatives for a "false-flag operation" that could potentially justify a Russian military offensive.
The US has warned that Russia will face severe consequences, mainly economic and financial penalties, should it take military action against Ukraine.Read the original article on Business Insider