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Republicans call on Blinken to reopen Kyiv embassy

Mychael Schnell | The Hill

Two Senate Republicans are calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv as Russia appears to be shifting its military forces away from the capital city.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Steve Daines (D-Mont.) penned a letter, obtained by Politico, to Blinken on Wednesday urging him to “fully open” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, arguing that such a move would “enhance cooperation with a democratic partner” and “symbolically affirm” America’s commitment to Ukraine’s territory.

They said they are pressing for the reopening because Russia has pulled its forces from areas around Kyiv.

“With Ukraine’s successful defense of Kyiv and Russia’s subsequent withdrawal of forces from the areas surrounding the capital, we encourage you to fully open the United States embassy without delay,” the senators wrote.

“Ukraine faces enormous military, economic, and humanitarian challenges as a result of this war. America’s restored diplomatic presence in Kyiv will enhance cooperation with a democratic partner as it wages an existential defense and symbolically affirm our nation’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty,” they added.

Blinken announced in mid-February, before Russia’s invasion began, that the U.S. was “temporarily relocating” its embassy operations in Kyiv to Lviv as Moscow was ramping up its aggression against Ukraine.

The State Department then confirmed on Feb. 24, the first day of the invasion, that embassy operations had been suspended after the Ukrainian government declared an emergency. A department spokesperson said the core team that had been working in Lviv was temporarily working from Poland.

Russian forces targeted Kyiv earlier in the invasion, working to seize control of the capital city. Its efforts, however, stalled because of staunch Ukrainian opposition, prompting Moscow to reposition its efforts to the eastern portion of the country.

Following the apparent shift in strategy by Russia, the European Union and Italy signaled that their diplomatic operations in Kyiv would resume. Additionally on Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would reopen its embassy in Kyiv in the coming days.

Moran and Daines said in the new letter that the U.S.’s absence in Kyiv “signals a lack of confidence in Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and the diplomatic missions under its protection.”

“Resuming normal embassy operations at once will reinforce the importance of diplomacy and America’s full support for a Ukraine whole and free,” they added.

The senators also noted the historical significance of embassies remaining open during times of conflict.

“The United States historically has maintained embassies in nations at war, including those capitals under direct attack,” they wrote.

“The diplomats and all who serve at our Kyiv embassy will continue a long tradition of advancing America’s relationships even under duress,” they added.