South Korea Bans Travel to Ukraine, Joins U.S. in Asking Citizens to Leave

South Korean officials announced on Friday a ban on travel to Ukraine and joined the United States in urging citizens in the country to evacuate immediately amid growing concerns about a possible invasion by Russia.

South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said people planning to travel to Ukraine need to cancel their trip because the country is on a level 4 travel alert, the highest in the four-tier system, The Korea Herald reported.

Tensions have been rising in Eastern Europe amid the buildup of more than Russian 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border. President Vladimir Putin has said his country isn't planning to invade, but South Korea and the U.S. are telling their citizens to get out of Ukraine before a military attack occurs. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Americans in Ukraine should evacuate immediately because Russia could invade the country during the Beijing Winter Olympics, which end in nine days.

"We're in a window when an invasion could begin at any time, and, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics," Blinken said, without providing any details for his reasoning, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, at least 341 South Koreans are in Ukraine, including the embassy's staff. The South Korean ministry said in a statement that nations "staying there should evacuate immediately to safe third countries or South Korea via available flights."

The U.S. State Department announced a level 4 travel advisory for Ukraine due to "increased threats of military action and COVID." It warned citizens to evacuate Ukraine but, if they choose to stay, to "exercise caution due to crime, civil unrest and potential combat operations should Russia take military action," the department posted on Twitter.

"Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border," Blinken said.

As of Friday, Russia has roughly 140,000 troops located at the border near Ukraine and in Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, The Moscow Times reported. To prepare for a possible Russian attack, the U.S. deployed 2,000 troops to Europe last week, with another 1,000 troops based in Germany ordered to Romania, to support the NATO alliance.

President Joe Biden has warned American citizens there won't be a rescue mission for them if Russia invades. "That's a world war—when Americans and Russians start shooting at one another, we're in a very different world than we've ever been in," Biden said in an interview this week with NBC News' Lester Holt.

Update 02/11/2022, 11:45 a.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

South Korea Told Citizens to Evacuate Ukraine
South Korea is banning its nationals from traveling to all regions of Ukraine and urged those staying there to evacuate immediately. Above, in a photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian military vehicles travel during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia's Rostov region on January 26. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP Photo