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Russia- Ukraine war: US embassy in Kyiv reopens after nearly three months

US President Joe Biden speaks about the counterterrorism operation in Syria from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 3, 2022. SAUL LOEB / AFP

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Nearly three months after withdrawing American diplomats and suspending work in the Ukrainian capital in advance of Russia’s invasion, the United States has reopened its embassy in Kyiv, the US Department of State announced.

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“The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday.

With the war in Ukraine continuing, Blinken said the US was applying “additional measures to increase the safety of our colleagues who are returning to Kyiv and have enhanced our security measures and protocols”.

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US President Joe Biden has nominated Bridget Brink, a career US foreign service officer, to be ambassador to Ukraine. Brink knows the region well, most recently serving as ambassador to Slovakia.

She also served as deputy chief of mission in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Tbilisi, Georgia.

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At her Senate confirmation hearing on May 10, Brink called the challenges facing Ukraine “enormous” and drew statements of support from both Democratic and Republican senators. Her confirmation is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The US had ordered the families of all American staff at the embassy in Kyiv to leave the country on January 23 amid heightened concern that Russian troops, amassed on the Ukrainian borders, were about to invade.

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Russia launched its all-out invasion on February 24 and attempted to take the capital, Kyiv. Days earlier, the remaining US embassy staff had been relocated to neighbouring Poland, a NATO ally.

The Russian invasion has since shifted to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, after its forces failed to seize Kyiv amid fierce Ukrainian resistance.

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On April 25, Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin travelled to the city and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They announced additional US military assistance for Ukraine and a gradual return of American diplomats.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy poses for a picture with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before a meeting, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses for a picture with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before their meeting in Kyiv on April 24 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Senior US officials have warned that Russia is preparing for a protracted conflict, with Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, telling lawmakers last week that the shift to the Donbas is only temporary.

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“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” she said.

Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than six million people have been forced to flee the country since the war began. The United Nations has documented 7,061 civilian casualties, with 3,381 killed and 3,680 injured.

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“The actual figures are higher and we are working to corroborate every single incident,” Matilda Bogner, who heads a UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, told a news briefing in Geneva last week.

“The war rages on. Russia’s forces inflict death and destruction on Ukrainian soil every day,” Blinken said in Wednesday’s statement. “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 US Embassy in Kyiv.”

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The US has not had a Senate-confirmed ambassador in Ukraine since 2020, when then-President Donald Trump recalled Marie Yovanovitch from Kyiv.

She later testified in House of Representatives impeachment hearings that she had been forced out as part of Trump’s effort to pressure Zelenskyy to dig up political dirt on Biden in Ukraine.

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