Friday, February 28, 2014

Ukraine: Effective February 28, US Department of State Discourages All Non-Essential Travel

The Department of State warns US citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, and particularly the Crimean Peninsula, due to the potential for instability following the departure of former President Yanukovych and the establishment of a new government.

Groups have staged protests, set up roadblocks, and occupied government buildings in several cities throughout Ukraine since November 2013.  All US citizens in Ukraine, and those considering travel to Ukraine, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of political instability and the possibility of violence.

The Department of State authorized the departure of family members of US government personnel from Ukraine on February 20, 2014.  All Peace Corps Volunteers departed on February 25, 2014. The US Embassy in Kiev's Consular Section is open for all public services.  The Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving US citizens in other parts of Ukraine is limited.

The Department of State urges US citizens who travel to Ukraine to carefully evaluate the risks posed to their personal safety, particularly in Crimea and the eastern cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv.  While the transition to a new government has been largely peaceful, the police presence in Kiev and other cities remains limited and there is still a potential for violence between supporters of different political parties.  Large crowds remain in Kiev's Independence Square and adjacent areas.  Since February 27, demonstrations and clashes have occurred in several cities in Crimea and eastern parts of Ukraine.   

Ground transportation may be disrupted throughout the country. Drivers, especially in Crimea, may encounter roadblocks that restrict access on certain roads.  Commercial air travel could be delayed or cancelled with little or no notice.  Travelers should check with their airlines for possible flight delays or cancellations prior to travel.  

The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly.  US citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds.  Those in Kiev should keep away from the downtown areas of Kiev near Independence Square and government buildings.  US citizens should be prepared to remain indoors for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.

Protests in Kiev began on November 21, 2013, following the Government of Ukraine’s announcement that it was suspending preparations to sign an association agreement with the European Union.  On February 22, following three months of large protests and violent clashes, former President Yanukovych departed Kiev.  The Ukrainian Parliament established a new government on February 27.  Groups that oppose the new government and support closer ties with Russia have staged demonstrations in cities throughout eastern and southern Ukraine. Unidentified, armed soldiers have occupied several government buildings, including airports, and established roadblocks on the Crimean peninsula and there are media reports that the airspace above the region has been closed and flights cancelled.  

US citizens living or traveling in Ukraine are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and to obtain updated information on security within Ukraine.  By enrolling, US citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. 

For inquiries regarding US citizens in Ukraine related to the current unrest, please call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444, or email the Department of State at UkraineEmergencyUSC@state.gov.  These numbers are available from 0800 hours through 2000 hours, EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays). For emergency assistance for US citizens in Ukraine, you may contact the US Embassy in Kiev at +380-44-521-5000 during regular business hours, or after-hours at +380-44-521-5000.  The US Embassy is located at 4 A.I. Sikorsky St. (formerly Tankova) in Kiev.

For the latest security information, US citizens should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information can be found.  Follow us on Twitter  and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook  as well.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 0800 hours through 2000 hours, EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays).