Russia Evacuating Diplomats From Ukraine, Cites Threats to Their Lives

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday that its diplomats would soon evacuate Ukraine, citing threats of violence against them.

Its statement said Russian diplomats in Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv were the subject of "aggressive actions," such as attacks on diplomatic buildings and diplomats' vehicles being set on fire. This further escalates tensions between the two nations, as Russia's lawmakers agreed Tuesday to use military force in eastern Ukraine's rebel-held regions, according to the Associated Press.

The Russian statement comes the same day that Russia's Federation Council decided to approve Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to send troops to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have been at war with Ukrainian forces for eight years, the AP reported. Putin announced Monday he recognizes the independence of the so-called "people's republics," according to Newsweek's live updates on the conflict.

The Russian statement accuses Ukraine's government of violating the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations by allegedly not reacting after the Russian diplomats "received threats of physical violence."

The conventions, established in the 1960s, outline the privileges and immunities diplomats receive that "contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems."

In the statement, Russia accuses Ukraine of "Russophobia," saying, "In violation of its own Constitution and legislation, Kiev launched a massive offensive against the Russian language, grossly violating the linguistic, educational and cultural rights of tens of millions of Russian-speaking citizens," it said, using the Russian spelling of Kyiv.

The foreign ministry also accused Ukraine of persecution of the Orthodox Church and "attempts to falsify history" in its statement, adding that "Nazi collaborators and henchmen are elevated to the rank of heroes of Ukraine."

It also said Russia's Center for Science and Culture in Kyiv has been a regular site of "provocations," saying the health of the center's leader has been harmed and the center's property has suffered damage.

According to the AP, Putin has laid out demands on the Ukrainian government that he said would end the conflict—partial demilitarization, renouncing its bid to join NATO and recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. It is unlikely Ukraine will adhere to any of these demands.

In a Friday statement from Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine said Russia has been "unfolding its campaign to disseminate massive disinformation" and called on the international community to condemn Russia's "provocations."

"We categorically reject the attempts of Russia to aggravate the already tense security situation," it said. "We remain firmly committed to politico-diplomatic settlement and, together with our partners, maximize efforts to reduce the tension and keep the situation in line with diplomatic dialogue."

Update 02/22/22 2:30 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information.

Vladimir Putin, Russia
Russia said its diplomats will evacuate Ukraine. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin answers journalists' questions after a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 22. Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images