U.S. State Dept. Updates Ukraine Travel Warning, May 8, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 8, 2014.  The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine.  In addition, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel – both essential and non-essential – to several regions of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, the eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk, and the city of Odesa, due to the possibility of violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups and the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula and on the eastern border of Ukraine. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated April 16 to provide updated information on the situation in southern and eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have occupied the Crimean Peninsula in support of the Russian Federation’s claim of Crimean annexation and these forces are likely to continue to take further actions in the Crimean Peninsula consistent with its claim. The United States and Ukraine do not recognize this claimed annexation. The Russian Federation has positioned military forces along the border of eastern Ukraine while armed militants in several eastern Ukrainian cities have staged demonstrations, seized government buildings, set up checkpoints, and attacked police and pro-Ukrainian counter-demonstrators. There was also a violent confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protestors in the southern city of Odesa on May 2.  Armed militants have threatened, detained, or kidnapped some journalists and international observers in eastern Ukraine for hours or days. The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.  

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Ukraine to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety, particularly in the Crimean Peninsula, the eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv, and the southern city of Odesa. While the transition to a new government has been largely peaceful in most parts of Ukraine, in several eastern Ukrainian cities armed militants, including personnel who appear to be members of the Russian military, have seized government buildings and attacked police. There have been demonstrations in eastern and southern Ukraine, and attacks on pro-Ukrainian counter-demonstrators; some of these clashes have resulted in injuries and deaths. Additionally, groups advocating closer ties to Russia have taken on a more strident anti-American tone, especially in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  Some U.S. citizens have reported being detained and questioned by armed men in eastern Ukraine, and several foreign journalists and international observers have been kidnapped by armed militants for hours or days.  U.S. citizens who choose to remain in areas where there are pro-Russian demonstrations should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings. 

Peace Corps Volunteers departed Ukraine on February 25, and remain out of the country at this time. U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s Consular Section is open for all public services; however, in light of the ongoing political unrest, the Embassy has restricted Embassy personnel from traveling to eastern Ukraine, the Odesa oblast, and the Crimean Peninsula.  As a result, the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens outside of Kyiv, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine, is extremely limited. 

Ground transportation may be disrupted throughout the country. Drivers may encounter roadblocks that restrict access on certain roads.  Commercial air travel out of the Crimean Peninsula is currently limited to travel to and from the Russian Federation. Travelers should check with their airlines for possible flight delays or cancellations prior to travel to or from the Crimean Peninsula and eastern Ukraine as flights could be delayed or cancelled with little or no notice.

On February 22, following three months of large protests and violent clashes, former President Yanukovych departed Kyiv. The Ukrainian Parliament established an interim government on February 27. Russia has conducted an illegal military intervention in the Crimean Peninsula and has been taking steps to acquire territory from Ukraine through the illegal use of force.  On March 18, the Russian government recognized Crimea as independent and has since declared Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. On March 20, Russia’s lower Parliament House, known as the State Duma, voted in support of Russia’s illegal attempt to make Crimea a part of Russia.

U.S. 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, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

For inquiries regarding U.S. 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 [email protected]. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  For emergency assistance for U.S. citizens in Ukraine, you may contact the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv at +(380)(44) 521-5000 during regular business hours, or after-hours at +(380)(44) 521-5000. The U.S. Embassy is located at 4 A.I. Sikorsky St. (formerly Tankova) in Kyiv.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel 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 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).