US President Joe Biden has told American citizens living in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, amid growing fears of a Russian invasion.
“American citizens should leave now,” Biden told NBC News.
He warned “things could go crazy quickly” in the region, and that he would not send troops to rescue Americans in the case of military conflict.
Commenting on the idea of sending troops to rescue fleeing Americans, Biden said: “That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another. We’re in a very different world than we’ve ever been.”
While the White House has cautioned Russia of stringent sanctions if the country invades Ukraine, and has put pressure on Europe to reject the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Biden has consistently stopped short of committing troops to the region in the case of conflict.
Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite massing more than 100,000 troops near the border.
It has just begun extensive military drills with neighbouring ally Belarus, while Ukraine has accused Russia of blocking its access to the Sea of Avoz.
The Kremlin has been pushing back against perceived NATO expansionism, and is pushing for troop numbers in NATO countries to be reduced, and for commitments that Ukraine will never join the bloc.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that Europe faced its biggest security crisis in decades amid the tensions.
In a joint news conference in Brussels with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Johnson said he did not believe Russia had yet taken a decision on whether to invade Ukraine but the UK’s intelligence “remains grim”
The current tensions follow Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Since then, Ukraine’s military has been engaged in extensive conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas region.
So far, frenzied attempts at diplomacy have failed to bear fruit.
Russia and Ukraine announced late on Thursday they had failed to reach any breakthrough in a day of talks with French and German officials, which were aimed at ending the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.