Florida National Guard troops ordered out of Ukraine by SECDEF

The 160 soldiers of the Florida National Guard deployed to Ukraine since November have been ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to leave Ukraine amid increasing concern of a Russian attack, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The soldiers, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, have been ordered to reposition elsewhere in Europe, according to Kirby in a media release. They have been advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces as part of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Austin made this decision “out of an abundance of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind — and informed by the State Department’s guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine,” according to the media release.

“This repositioning does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,” the release states.

Earlier Saturday, State Department officials in Kyiv announced they were suspending consular services at the embassy in Kyiv and moving some personnel to Lviv in the west of the country.

“It appears increasingly likely that this is where this this situation is headed, towards some kind of active conflict,” a senior State Department official told reporters Saturday morning.

Friday, President Joe Biden ordered 3,000 members of the 82nd Airborne Division would join 3,000 troops already mobilized to Poland, Germany and Romania.

There are more than 100,000 Russian troops arrayed around Ukraine.

This is a developing story. Stay with Military Times for updates.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.

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