The US on Tuesday urged Americans to leave Ukraine, saying that it believes Russia is preparing to launch attacks on civilian infrastructure in the coming days, as the war approaches its six-month mark.
The warning from the US embassy comes after the Ukrainian government banned Independence Day celebrations in Kyiv, fearing attacks on the capital city. Wednesday will mark 31 years of Ukrainian independence from Soviet rule.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” before the anniversary.
Nearing six months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the two countries are locked in a stalemate. Russian forces control portions of southern Ukraine, including along the coast of the Black Sea, as well as sections of the eastern Donbas region.
And artillery strikes conducted by Russia near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant have renewed fears of a nuclear catastrophe. Moscow called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to address the issue on Tuesday.
Fearing an increase in Russian attacks, the US embassy urged Americans to leave the country “now” if they can safely do so.
“The Department of State has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days,” the embassy said in a statement.
“Russian strikes in Ukraine pose a continued threat to civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
The embassy also advised Americans to remain vigilant and be aware of their closest shelter or protected space.
Ukrainians have been advised to work from home Tuesday to Thursday if possible, and to seek shelter when air sirens sound. Large public gatherings in Kyiv have also been banned until Thursday out of fear that crowds could become targets of Russian missile strikes.
The war in Ukraine has so far killed 5,800 civilians, including at least 972 children, the UN said.
“And these are just the figures the UN has been able to verify,” said Catherine Russell, executive director of the UN children's fund.
“We believe the true number to be much higher.”
An additional 7,890 civilians have been wounded.