China Issues Alert to Its Citizens in Ukraine as Russian Troops Cross Border

China advised its citizens in Ukraine to stockpile rations on Tuesday, but it resisted the urge to evacuate diplomats despite what it called "major changes" in the Donbas area, where Russian troops are now being deployed as "peacekeepers."

In a notice issued in the hours after President Vladimir Putin formally recognized the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, the Chinese Embassy in Kyiv asked citizens to avoid "unstable areas" and to monitor official information out of Beijing. However, the embassy and its consulate in Odessa, on the Black Sea, remain open.

"Improve awareness of safety precautions and stock up on daily necessities such as food and drinking water in due course," the bulletin read. "Strengthen contacts with local overseas Chinese associations, international student associations, Chinese chambers of commerce as well as acquaintances and friends, and help each other when necessary."

Asked whether Beijing was considering an evacuation of its citizens from Ukraine, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin noted "major changes in the situation in eastern Ukraine," but said the embassy would remain in contact with citizens and businesses to provide timely "consular protection and assistance." China would "earnestly safeguard the safety and legitimate rights and interests of businesses," he said.

American diplomats who had been relocated from Kyiv to Lviv in western Ukraine spent Monday night across the border in Poland after Putin ordered Russian soldiers and armor into Donetsk and Luhansk, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. They were scheduled to return to Lviv for consular work the next day.

Last week, China's foreign ministry said its embassy would continue normal operations, with spokesperson Wang accusing the United States of exaggerating Russia's military buildup and "playing up the threat of war."

During Tuesday's regular press conference in Beijing, Wang didn't address whether China would back Russia's official recognition of Ukraine's rebel regions. The history and realities of the Ukraine crisis are complex, he said, before calling for restraint, dialogue and the avoidance of further escalation. His remarks echoed the tame response given by China's ambassador to the United Nations during an emergency meeting of the Security Council late on Monday.

Further Dialogue

In a call with Blinken shortly after the UN session, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the situation in Ukraine was "deteriorating," but renewed calls for dialogue. "China will continue to engage all parties according to the merits of the matter itself," said Wang, according to a press statement.

In a separate readout from Beijing, Wang and Blinken are said to have discussed U.S.-China relations, which remain on edge despite the focus on Eastern Europe in recent months. The Chinese diplomat accused the U.S. of failing to live up to commitments made during November's summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping.

Specifically, Wang saw Washington as continuing to take a hard line on Beijing. American officials who advocate for "long-term, intense competition" risk creating "full-scale confrontation" between the two countries, he said

China Issues Warning to Citizens in Ukraine
A file photo of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. On February 22, 2022, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine’s breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Chinese Embassy in Kyiv issued a security notice asking its citizens to stockpile rations and avoid “unstable areas.” GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images