Three months after it suspended operations at the US Embassy Ukraine, the State Department announced that it will be reopening the US embassy in Kyiv.
The decision to send a small contingent of U.S. diplomats back to Kyiv as part of a soft reopening of the embassy is intended to signal that the United States stands with Ukraine against Russia. It is a move U.S. lawmakers from both parties, as well as Ukrainians, have been hoping to see for weeks. But Biden administration officials had hesitated, in large part due to ongoing security concerns, even as other countries reopened their missions.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that even though embassy personnel left in the days before Russia invaded Ukraine, this had no effect on American support for the people of Ukraine. He said that when the embassy temporarily shuttered, the U.S. “pledged to continue our assistance” and work to eventually reopen.
“Now, that day has come,” Blinken said. “Today we are officially resuming operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasions, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again.”
Blinken said that with the reopening of the embassy, the U.S. has “put forward additional measures to increase the safety of our colleagues and enhanced our security measures and protocols.”
Blinken was clear that this was not a statement of any kind of victory.”The war rages on. Russia’s forces inflict death and destruction on Ukrainian soil every day,” he said, referencing millions of Ukrainian people who have lost their homes and family members.
“With strength of purpose, we reaffirm our commitment to the people and government of Ukraine, and we look forward to carrying out our mission from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,” he said.
Diplomatic security has been a hot-button issue in the United States for years, largely due to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Republicans used that tragedy to launch multiple investigations of Democratic leaders.
But some top officials in President Joe Biden’s administration, including Blinken, have said the U.S. government needs to shed what many have called a bunker mentality when it comes to its diplomacy.
The Biden administration withdrew U.S. diplomats from Kyiv on February 12 as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grew. State Department personnel were first evacuated to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine that is close to the Polish border, and then left the country after Russian forces flooded into Ukraine and its war intensified.
Meanwhile the Swiss Federal Council has announced that after two and a half months of the temporary closure of its embassy in Ukraine, Switzerland has decided to reopen it.
In a statement issued on May 19, the Federal Council also stated that five employees of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) would return to Kyiv in the coming days.
In addition, in the recent weeks, many representatives of other countries have begun to open their embassies. The embassies and consulates of over 40 countries are now again physically present in Kyiv.
For example, Denmark was the first Nordic country to open its embassy in Ukraine. According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the embassy’s staff will handle political tasks related to the close Danish-Ukrainian relations from the Kyiv staff, including the money and assistance that the Danish government is willing to donate to the Ukrainians.
Previously, Italy has also decided to move its embassy to Kyiv.
Similar to Italy and Denmark, seeing the improvement of the security situation in Kyiv, Hungary and Spain, like other European Union countries, have decided to relocate their embassies to the Ukrainian capital from Lviv.