US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that "no one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident which it then uses to justify military action it had planned all along."
The top US diplomat, speaking at a joint press conference with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Hawaii, said "the risk of Russian military action is high enough and the threat is imminent enough" that ordering the majority of US diplomats to leave Ukraine is "the prudent thing to do."
On Saturday, the State Department "ordered the departure of most US direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action," and will suspend consular services in Kyiv tomorrow. It will handle emergency services in Lviv.
"A core team will remain in Ukraine with our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues as we continue to work relentlessly to resolve this crisis through deterrence and diplomacy," said Blinken.
Speaking about his call Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Blinken said he raised the United States' "serious concerns that Moscow may be considering launching a military attack against Ukraine in the coming days" and stressed that the diplomatic path remains open.
"On our call, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Russians are working on a response to the paper that we sent to Moscow more than two weeks ago, proposing concrete areas for discussion," Blinken said.
"It remains to be seen if they'll follow through on that, but if they do we'll be ready to engage together with our allies and partners," he said.
Blinken said he, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also "discussed the threat that Russia's aggression poses not only to Ukraine, but to the entire international rules-based order" during their meeting in Honolulu.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday accused Western countries and the press of spreading a "large-scale disinformation campaign" about an allegedly impending Russian invasion of Ukraine "in order to divert attention from their own aggressive actions."