The Federal Government announced today that Australia will evacuate its embassy in Ukraine, amid concerns about a looming Russian invasion.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government had temporarily suspended operations at the embassy in the capital Kyiv and ordered staff there to leave.
Australian diplomats will move their operations to a temporary office in Lviv, in western Ukraine.
Ms Payne has also repeated calls for Australians in Ukraine to leave immediately, stressing security conditions could change rapidly.
Russia has massed well over 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has sent troops to exercises in neighbouring Belarus, but denies that it intends to launch an offensive against Ukraine.
Biden, Putin in high-stakes call
Mr Biden also said on Saturday (US Eastern Time) the US and its allies would respond “decisively and impose swift and severe costs” if the Kremlin attacked its neighbour, according to a White House description of the hour-long call.
“President Biden was clear with President Putin that while the United States remains prepared to engage in diplomacy, in full coordination with our Allies and partners, we are equally prepared for other scenarios,” the White House statement said.
The two presidents spoke a day after Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, warned that US intelligence shows that a Russian invasion could begin within days and before the Winter Olympics ends in Beijing on February 20.
The call produced “no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks,” according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters following the call.
The official, who discussed the call on condition of anonymity, added that it remains unclear whether Putin has made a final decision to move forward with military action.
The Biden administration has been warning for weeks that Russia could invade Ukraine soon, but US officials had previously said the Kremlin would likely wait until after the Games ended so as not to antagonise China.
Mr Sullivan told reporters on Friday that US intelligence shows that Russia could take military action during the Olympics.
Before talking to Mr Biden, Mr Putin had a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, who met with him in Moscow earlier in the week to try to resolve the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. A Kremlin summary of the call suggested that little progress was made toward cooling down the tensions.
In a sign that American officials are getting ready for a worst-case scenario, the US announced plans to evacuate its embassy in the Ukrainian capital. Australia and Britain joined European nations in urging its citizens to leave Ukraine.