Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the evacuation of its diplomatic staff in the under-siege Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday was part of a detailed plan previously endorsed by the country’s top leaders, and refuted claims that the effort was bungled. The South China Morning Post had reported based on multiple government sources that a group of diplomats led by the Charge D’Affaires ad interim Fadillah Daud decided to evacuate to neighbouring Poland in four cars after earlier being left in a state of limbo in the Kyiv embassy. Sources had said part of the reason why the evacuation took place at such a late stage – as Russian forces began closing in on Kyiv – was inertia within the top ranks of government to act on Western intelligence about the impending assault. ‘Make a run for it’: Malaysian diplomats flee Ukraine amid bungled evacuation Officials such as Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah deemed the Western intelligence part of an inaccurate “Western narrative”, some of the sources said. In a lengthy statement issued on Sunday, the Malaysian foreign ministry strongly denied this was the case. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs regrets the reports of some media outlets with sensational headlines as well as baseless comments on social media that deviated from the real situation on the ground in relation to implementing this mission,” the ministry said in a statement in Malay. It said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Thursday decided to activate a “detailed evacuation plan” that was initially discussed during a cabinet meeting on February 16. “Claims that embassy officials that had to flee and did not possess a standard operating procedure [to evacuate] that are in media reports and social media are unfounded,” the statement said. It said the evacuation plan had not been publicised earlier for security reasons. The ministry earlier said the group led by Fadillah reached Poland on Sunday morning. The group comprised nine Malaysians, two of their Ukrainian dependents as well as a Singaporean national, it said. The tally was different from an earlier count that put the travelling party as having eight Malaysian nationals and two foreign dependents. The convoy of four cars – which had made nearly an 800km journey from Kyiv – was received on the Polish side of the border by embassy officials, the ministry said. The evacuees were subsequently transported to Warsaw. Saifuddin wrote on Twitter that the group will return to Kuala Lumpur “in the near future”. Malaysia is among a majority of Southeast Asian nations that have responded to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in a measured manner. On Thursday, hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to enter Ukraine, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri issued a statement to convey his “sadness” over the developments in Ukraine, and did not name Russia. China’s Ukraine evacuation plan on hold, with worse expected to come On Saturday, he issued a toughened statement, saying Malaysia was “seriously concerned over the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, and strongly urges all concerned parties to immediately take steps to de-escalate and prevent loss of lives and devastation”. “At this critical juncture, every effort should be redoubled to seek a peaceful and amicable solution to the conflict through dialogue and negotiation based on international law and the Charter of the United Nations,” he said. “Malaysia will continue to support such efforts in the interest of maintaining regional and international peace and security, as well as promoting greater prosperity,” he added. The second statement did not directly mention Russia as well. The Southeast Asian country was dragged into Ukraine-Russia tensions after the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. A multinational investigation released in 2019 concluded that the incident, which killed all 298 passengers and crew on board, was likely committed by Moscow-backed rebels in the region. Malaysian officials dismissed the report’s findings, saying Russia was being made a scapegoat.