KYIV, Ukraine — The United States has reopened its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, three months after fears of what became a brutal Russian invasion prompted its closure.
The decision to send a small contingent of U.S. diplomats back to Kyiv as part of a soft reopening of the embassy is intended to signal that the United States stands with Ukraine against Russia. It is a move U.S. lawmakers from both parties, as well as Ukrainians, have been hoping to see for weeks. But Biden administration officials had hesitated, in large part due to ongoing security concerns, even as other countries reopened their missions.
The American embassy’s reopening was confirmed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Wednesday, after the U.S. flag was once again raised at the facility. He called it a “momentous step.”
“The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” Blinken said. “We stand proudly with, and continue to support, the government and people of Ukraine as they defend their country from the Kremlin’s brutal war of aggression.”
Blinken said the Biden administration has “put forward additional measures to increase the safety of our colleagues who are returning to Kyiv and have enhanced our security measures and protocols.”
A person familiar with the embassy’s reopening plans told POLITICO that it would resume functioning only in a limited capacity and that consular services will not be offered.
Wednesday’s reopening ceremony was delayed for about an hour due to an air raid warning in Kyiv, underscoring the threat that persists more than a month after Russian ground forces retreated from the area around the Ukrainian capital.
Chargé d’affaires Kristina Kvien, currently on leave, was not present at the reopening ceremony, where a small contingent of diplomats raised the American flag over the embassy’s gated compound.
The person familiar with embassy operations said that U.S. Marines are not present at the embassy; the compound is being guarded by diplomatic security and Ukrainian national guard and police forces.
Diplomatic security has been a hot-button issue in the United States for years, largely due to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Republicans used that tragedy to launch multiple investigations of Democratic leaders.
But some top officials in President Joe Biden’s administration, including Blinken, have said the U.S. government needs to shed what many have called a bunker mentality when it comes to its diplomacy.
Nahal Toosi reported from Washington, D.C.