Netherlands moves Ukraine embassy to Lviv over security concerns in Kyiv
The Dutch embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv will temporarily move its activities to the western city of Lviv “for security reasons,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter. The decision was announced less than a day after NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg said there are strong signals that Russia is preparing to carry out a “full-fledged attack” on Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the Netherlands issued a Code Red travel warning for all of Ukraine because of the increasing tensions with Russia. The two countries share a border, where Russia has amassed a large military force.
Dutch people who are still in the country have been urged to leave "as soon as possible.” NATO has also begun to collect personnel and evacuate Kyiv, moving their staff to Lviv and Brussels.
"The safety of our personnel is paramount, so staff have been relocated to Lviv and Brussels. The NATO offices in Ukraine remain operational," an official told AFP.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and the alliance does not have any forces there, but since the late 1990s it has maintained two offices in Kyiv: a NATO Liaison Office and a NATO Information and Documentation Centre. Several Western countries have already moved diplomats from Kyiv to Lviv, located near the border with Poland, in anticipation of Russian military action.
"Every indication indicates that Russia is planning a full-fledged attack against Ukraine," Stoltenberg told German broadcaster ARD at the Security Conference in Munich on Saturday. "We all agree that the risk of an attack is very high."
Russian troops have not withdrawn from the border region, as Russia claims, he said. On the contrary, more military personnel have arrived there. The former Norwegian prime minister said there are also signs that Russia is trying to provoke or otherwise generate an opportunity for an invasion.
The West fears that the intensification of fighting in eastern Ukraine is being used by Russia to invade the neighboring country. The separatists are supported by Russia, which means that that country can see a Ukrainian attack on the separatists as provocation.
On Sunday, Ukraine closed one of seven checkpoints leading into the separatist Donbass region over artillery shelling. The safety of civilians who want to go through the checkpoint cannot be guaranteed, the army said. Two soldiers were killed in the shelling on Saturday.
Stoltenberg has previously said that the alliance will not deploy any forces into Ukraine to defend it from any Russian aggression. But NATO members have sent forces to neighbouring countries which are alliance members, and Stoltenberg has said NATO member countries will vigorously react to any Russian action in those territories, under its collective defence pact.
He called on Russia to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis, in line with Saturday’s cooperative statement from the foreign ministers of the G7 nations.
A ceasefire is currently in place between Ukraine and the separatists in eastern Ukraine. The separatists have violated the agreement 136 times as of Saturday, with 66 cases reported on Friday. The separatists claim the attacks are in response to Ukrainian shelling.
Reporting by ANP