White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned on Wednesday that the Biden administration may not help evacuate U.S. citizens out of Ukraine if Russia were to invade the country.
“The White House has made it pretty clear there is no plan for a mass evacuation of American citizens in Ukraine,” a reporter said. “And, in fact, you and the President and others have suggested that Americans who are in Ukraine should leave now if they can. At the same time, it’s been projected that Russia could overtake Kyiv in two days if it invades.”
“So, what happens to Americans if they do get stranded in Ukraine?” the reporter asked. “Should they understand that the U.S. is not coming to get them?”
Psaki responded by saying that the administration has warned Americans to leave Ukraine for weeks, adding that “what people should understand is that the United States does not typically do mass evacuations.”
Psaki added that the administration is still encouraging U.S. citizens to leave the country now.
REPORTER: “What happens to Americans if they do get stranded in Ukraine? Should they understand the U.S. is not coming to get them?”
PSAKI: “The United States does not typically do mass evacuations.” pic.twitter.com/kAz67kigsd
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REPORTER: Okay. Great. The White House has made it pretty clear there is no plan for a mass evacuation of American citizens in Ukraine. And, in fact, you and the President and others have suggested that Americans who are in Ukraine should leave now if they can. At the same time, it’s been projected that Russia could overtake Kyiv in two days if it invades. So, what happens to Americans if they do get stranded in Ukraine? Should they understand that the U.S. is not coming to get them?
JEN PSAKI, PRESS SECRETARY: Well, let’s just take a step back here. First, we don’t know that President Putin has made a decision to invade. We still don’t have a new assessment on that. Right? I’m obviously not going to discuss intelligence reports, which I think you also referenced. What I can tell you is that it’s not just that the President or I have been conveying this warning to U.S. citizens. This is something the State Department has been doing for weeks and weeks and weeks now.
I know there have also been a range of reports out there about American citizens. As you all know, because we’ve discussed this before, U.S. citizens are not required to register their travel to a foreign country with us. And we don’t maintain a comprehensive list of U.S. citizens. That said, the State Department does estima- — does estimates from time to time. And I know there have been much larger numbers out there. So I just wanted to reiterate for all of you that back in October, the State Department estimated there were at the time — so, months ago — about 6,600 U.S. citizens residing in Ukraine. Not much far- — not much larger than that.
There have been — of course, there are periodic times — during the holiday season — where there are assessments of tourists and visitors and others. But in terms of citizens residing in Ukraine — many of which would be dual citizens. So, what people should understand is that the United States does not typically do mass evacuations. Of course, the situation in Afghanistan was unique for many reasons, including that it was the end of a 20-year war. We were bringing a war to an end; we were not trying to prevent a war, as we are certainly in this case. There are a range of means that individuals and Americans can depart from Ukraine, and we’ve been encouraging them to do exactly that.
REPORTER: But what we have been — how we’ve been looking at this is much more — much more similar to what was ordered in Ethiopia or Kazakhstan in recent months, where the security circumstances on the ground warranted travel advisories and warnings from the State Department. And can you explain how the process would work if U.S. citizens were able to make it by land to Poland or Romania? What’s the plan that’s being put in place to help them?
PSAKI: You mean if they cross the border? Well, there are —
REPORTER: If there is — if there is an invasion.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are still — I think what we are encouraging American citizens to do is depart now, obviously. There hasn’t been an invasion, and we don’t know that there has been a decision to invade. Obviously, we have a range of diplomatic presences — not only in Ukraine, but in neighboring countries — that are always available for U.S. citizens should they need assistance.