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White House ambiguous on how many Americans are in Ukraine as a Russian invasion looms

The executive has remained ambiguous on how many Americans are in conflicts, but repeatedly warned Friday that all U.S. citizens need to leave the country within the next 24 to 48 hours, as the threat of a world-regions invasion continues to grow. 

“If you stay, you are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave and there is no prospect of [a] U.S. military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. “If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality.”  

“A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force with virtually no notice,” he continued. “No one would be able to count on air or rail or road departures once military action got underway.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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The Biden administration has remained tight-lipped on the number of Americans registered in Ukraine and Sullivan again directed reporters’ questions to the State Department for clarification. 

The State Department did not answer Fox News Digital’s questions and instead pointed to a January briefing when press secretary Ned Price said, “We typically don’t provide numbers of U.S. citizens living in or traveling to another country.”

Price said that estimates they received from the embassy in October suggested there were anywhere between 6,000 – 16,000 U.S. citizens in Ukraine, including American tourists and visitors. 

The administration has said it is too difficult to provide concrete figures on the number of Americans in another country because not everyone registers with the embassy once there. There is also the fact that even if they leave the country once advised to, they do not necessarily remember to notify the embassy. 

But reports have surfaced with estimates ranging from 23,000 – 30,000 Americans believed to be in Ukraine. 

Local residents train close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. 

Local residents train close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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“What I can do is stand before the world media and send a very clear message to all Americans and to any American who’s in Ukraine,” Sullivan said Friday. “Take advantage of a commercial option to get out.”

Americans who need logistical help have been advised to call the embassy immediately.

“The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to do so,” the national security adviser said. 

The U.S. and NATO have deployed troops to nations surrounding Ukraine like Poland and Romania, which are NATO-member nations. 

Sullivan said these forces will be “defensive” in nature and will protect NATO territory.

“They are not going to war with Russia,” he said.

The warning to Americans comes as nations like Britain, Canada and Israel issued similar alerts this week.  

Russia has been amassing troops along Ukraine’s border for months, but U.S. officials have increased the tone of urgency once again, warning that a Russian invasion in Ukraine is imminent – a tone they backed away from just last week. 

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.
(AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

Officials are now warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin could look to invade Ukraine before the Olympics are over. Putin’s expanding relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping prompted security experts to believe an invasion would likely wait until after the Beijing Winter Olympics had ended.

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Sullivan would not provide details as to what intelligence has suggested an earlier incursion could occur but said, “The intelligence community has sufficient confidence…there is a distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin would order a military action and invasion of Ukraine in this window.”

Russia continues to publicly claim it has no intention of invading Ukraine. 

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