Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ukraine: US Department of States Updates Its Travel Warning, Nonessential Travel Discouraged

The Department of State warns US citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine during the transition period following the departure of the President from Kiev or Kyiv on February 22, 2014, and while a new government is formed. 
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, particularly in Kiev and areas of eastern and southern Ukraine.  
On February 20, 2014, the Department of State authorized the departure of family members of US government personnel from Ukraine.  While the US Embassy Consular Section in Kiev is open for public services, the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving US citizens throughout 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 the capital city of Kiev and areas in the east and south of Ukraine.  
While the transition has been largely peaceful, there is still a potential for violence between supporters of different political parties, particularly in eastern Ukraine.  
On February 22, President Yanukovych and many senior officials departed the capital.  Parliament subsequently voted to remove President Yanukovych and senior officials from office and to create a new government.  The Ministry of Interior, the armed forces, and the police and city administrations in Kiev, and in areas throughout Ukraine, especially in central and western Ukraine, have issued statements supporting the new government.  While in eastern Ukraine, President Yanukovych denounced the Parliament’s actions.  
A few areas in eastern and southern Ukraine have declared their support for President Yanukovych. Clashes between groups and security units that support President Yanukovych and supporters of a new government have occurred in several cities, mainly in southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.  Large crowds remain in Kiev Independence Square and adjacent areas. 
Since February 18, violent clashes have resulted in multiple deaths and hundreds of injuries to protesters and police.  Groups of young men, popularly called “titushky,” have attacked journalists and protesters and committed other random acts of violence in Kyiv and other cities.  Since February 19, the use of gunfire against protesters and journalists has been reported.
Ground transportation may be disrupted throughout the country.  Since February 18, local authorities have shut down the Kyiv Metro (subway) for extended periods and cancelled inter-city trains on some routes with little or no notice.  Drivers may encounter roadblocks set up by police and other groups that restrict access on certain roads in Kyiv and other cities.  Commercial flights to and from Ukraine are currently operating normally.
The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly. US citizens should avoid large crowds and keep away from the downtown areas of Kyiv near Independence Square and government buildings.  US citizens are advised to remain indoors after dark and to be prepared to remain indoors for extended periods of time.  
Protests in Kyiv began on November 21, 2013, following the Government of Ukraine’s announcement that it was suspending preparations to sign an association agreement with the EU.  On November 30, police severely injured several demonstrators in an attempt to remove them from Independence Square. Protesters retaliated by occupying Kyiv’s Independence Square and adjacent buildings. Violence escalated sharply on February 18, with multiple people killed and hundreds injured.  On February 22, President Yanukovych departed the capital for eastern Ukraine and the Parliament voted to relieve him of his presidential duties and form a new government. 
US citizens living or traveling in Ukraine are 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 US 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  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 Kyiv 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 Kyiv.
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 CautionTravel Alerts and 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 0800-2000 hours, EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays).