Anti-government protestors wait in front of a parliamentary building in Kiev on Feb. 25. A contingent of Marine security guards has deployed to the Ukrainian capital to shore up security at the U.S. Embassy. (BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)
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Members of the Marine Corps’ new Security Augmentation Unit have been dispatched to shore up security at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, as the country is on the brink of a meltdown following weeks of violent unrest after a growing protests over agreements made between the former president and Russian leaders.
Marine security guards based in Quantico, Va., have deployed to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official would not provide the number of Marines requested by the department, but NBC News reported that nine have deployed.
There’s no indication that any additional U.S. military forces in the region have been tapped to ready for any further action, according to the State Department official.
Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled last week after signing a deal with opposition leaders to end months of violent clashes between protesters and police. Yanukovych is accused of killing 82 people, mainly protesters, during one of the bloodiest weeks in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.
The members of the Marine Security Augmentation Unit — or MSAU — will assist the existing detachment of Marines guarding the embassy, according to the official. The unit was created as part of the service’s response to boost diplomatic security capabilities following the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The MSAU is made up of specially trained Marine security guards. The unit dispatches squad-size teams wherever and whenever a need for reinforcement arises, and can respond directly to calls from the ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer at an embassy that’s in trouble.
The unit has been tapped to boost security at diplomatic posts at least a dozen times since it was stood up last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.