The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.
The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.
The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.
State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.
In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.
The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”
The department’s travel advisory, which had warned against traveling to Ukraine because of COVID-19 as well as the tensions over Russia, was changed Sunday to carry a stronger warning.
“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk,” the department advised.
The travel advisory for Russia was also changed: “Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”
The State Department would not say how many Americans it believes are currently in Ukraine. U.S. citizens are not required to register with embassies when they arrive or plan to stay abroad for extended periods.
A unvaccinated COVID-19 patient flown from Minnesota to Texas during a legal battle over whether his ventilator should be turned off died Saturday, the family’s attorney said.
A Minnesota judge had issued a restraining order on Jan. 13 blocking Mercy Hospital from turning off the machine that was keeping Scott Quiner alive, after his family sued the Coon Rapids health care facility. The family flew Quiner to a Texas hospital.
“We’re absolutely devastated,” Marjorie Holsten, the family’s lawyer, said Saturday.
Quiner, 55, of Buffalo, had been in Mercy Hospital’s intensive care unit since Nov. 6 with critically low oxygen levels. Anoka County Judge Jennifer Stanfield ruled in favor of the family’s request to keep the ventilator connected and had set a Feb. 11 hearing.
The family feels Quiner didn’t receive adequate care at Mercy Hospital. Holsten said earlier that a doctor felt Quiner “was the most undernourished patient he has ever seen.” Holsten said it’s not clear whether the family will pursue any further legal action.
“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Scott Quiner and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and loved ones,” Allina Health, which operates Mercy Hospital, said in a statement. “His passing marks yet another very sad moment as collectively we continue to face the devastating effects of the pandemic.”
A mother who claims teachers secretly manipulated her 11-year-old daughter into changing her gender identity and name has filed a legal case against a tiny California school district.
Spreckels Union School District was responsible for “extreme and outrageous conduct” that led the student on a path toward transitioning as a boy and drove a wedge between mother and child, according to the claim filed Wednesday by a conservative legal group.
Jessica Konen said two middle school teachers who ran the school’s Equality Club — later known as UBU (You Be You) — planted the seed that her daughter was bisexual in 6th grade and then introduced the idea she was transgender.
The legal claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — follows a dustup in the district last fall after the author of a book widely criticized as “anti-transgender” quoted the two teachers speaking at a conference about how to run an LGBTQ+ club in a conservative community.
While Konen said her daughter had revealed she was bisexual, the mother was unaware she was identifying as a boy until she was called to a meeting at the Buena Vista Middle School principal’s office in December 2019 when her daughter was in 7th grade.
She wasn’t told the purpose of the meeting until her daughter entered the room and sat across a table from her and teacher Lori Caldeira broke the news.
“I literally was caught off guard. I was blindsided,” Konen said. “I didn’t even know what to feel like because I didn’t even know where it came from.”
Konen said she began to cry.
She said her daughter was also caught by surprise. She had told teachers she wanted to notify her mom, but didn’t know they set the meeting up that day.
Konen said she gave the school permission to use a boy’s name for attendance purposes and tried to be supportive, but it was difficult.
When schools went to remote learning during the pandemic in March 2020, Konen said her daughter began returning to her “old self” and now uses her given name.
But it wasn’t until this fall that Konen began to question how her daughter got on the path to a different identity after the article by Abigail Shrier circulated around town.