This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. OSAC
encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security
conditions in Ukraine. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Ukraine
country page for original OSAC reporting, consular
messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to
private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of
State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s
publication assesses Ukraine at Level 2,
indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime and civil
unrest. Do not travel to Crimea due to arbitrary detentions
and other abuses by Russian occupation authorities; or the eastern parts of the
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, especially the non-government-controlled areas,
due to the armed conflict.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kyiv
as being a HIGH-threat location for
crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. In
Kyiv, National Police reported an overall decrease in crime in 2019 from 2018,
similar to recent years. Despite this declaration, the public’s overall
perception is that crime remains a problem, largely due to media reports
highlighting sensational crimes like public assassinations, armed robberies,
and violent assaults.
are an estimated 3 million illegal weapons in circulation due to the conflict
with Russia-led forces in the east. The use of improvised explosive devices
(IED) and firearms in broad daylight is of more concern, but these incidents
have caused minimal collateral injuries and damage.
The most common types of non-violent property crime affecting the
expatriate community include pickpocketing, bag snatching, theft from parked
vehicles, street scams, and residential burglaries. Criminals may target
tourists due to perceived wealth. Review
OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.
Criminals typically commit residential burglaries by forced entry when
the occupant is not at home, or when doors are unlocked.
Scattered reports of spiked drinks in
bars continued to occur in 2019; some victims claimed to have been robbed while
unconscious. General situational awareness and caution regarding accepting
drinks can mitigate the risk. Review OSAC’s Report Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
Wallet Scam remains a common confidence scheme used to victimize foreigners.
There are many variations to this scam, but all involve a criminal accusing the
victim of stealing cash and then bullying the victim into paying to avoid
further conflict. These incidents occur at locations foreigners frequent,
including major tourist attractions, western hotels, shopping malls, sporting
and other large-scale event venues, and throughout downtown Kyiv. The typical
scam involves a suspect who drops a wallet or a plastic bag in front of a
potential victim hoping the potential victim will pick it up. The suspect then
states that money is missing and loudly/aggressively (but not violently)
accuses the victim of stealing, threatening to call the police to panic the
victim. Often an accomplice interjects by introducing himself as a police
officer and flashes identification to the victim. The police officer will ask
the victim to produce his or her wallet to ensure the victim did not take the
money. The officer counts the money in front of the victim, the criminal grabs
it and flees, or more often steals the money by sleight of hand. The best
defense is to not pick up the wallet/bag, walk away, and do not engage the
perpetrators in conversation. Foreigners are more likely to experience
confrontation with this confidence scam, and U.S. citizens are main targets.
Identity theft involving ATM/credit
cards is prevalent, occurring on a regular basis. Review OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Government buildings, metro stations, shopping malls, and train stations
receive bomb threats on an almost daily basis throughout the country. Ukrainian
authorities continue to respond appropriately to all threats (the vast majority
of which are hoaxes).
Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.
Cybercrime in Ukraine remains a major concern. In
recent years, U.S. law enforcement pursued a number of joint
cybercrime/identity theft investigations with Ukrainian law enforcement
authorities. The Embassy strongly recommends using a Virtual Private Network
(VPN) for personal internet use.
Ukrainian government officials, private-sector
experts, and journalists report that Ukraine experiences several hundred to
several thousand cyberattacks against government ministries and information
portals each month. These have included run-of-the-mill denial-of-service (DOS)
attacks, which prevent users from connecting to a site or server for a limited
period, to attacks that affect critical infrastructure, and attacks that deface
publicly accessible information and service portals—often with a political
individuals routinely report marriage and dating scams via the Internet. There
have been numerous instances of online contacts extorting U.S. citizens for
thousands of dollars after ingratiating themselves as supposed friends or
romantic interests. These scams also include lotteries, online
dating/introduction services, and requests from a “friend” in trouble. In such
scams, supposed doctors, nurses, or civilian officials may contact the victim, claiming
the victim’s friend has been injured, detained, or is otherwise unable to
communicate and is in need of financial assistance to overcome the supposed
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Safety and Road Conditions
throughout the country are in various degrees of disrepair. Traffic in Kyiv is
heavy on weekdays during commuting hours, and unexpected traffic patterns often
delay travel in the city during workdays. Main thoroughfares are well illuminated
and maintained, but side streets and less commonly used avenues are often
poorly illuminated, narrow, and poorly maintained. Driving can be a challenge
to foreigners. Local drivers routinely disregard traffic laws and engage in
excessive speeding, driving the wrong way on one-way streets, driving in
oncoming lanes to maneuver around blocked traffic, and driving on sidewalks.
Using sidewalks for parking is common practice, often blocking pedestrian
access and endangering pedestrians.
must always be alert for pedestrians crossing busy streets outside of
crosswalks. In many locations, the only indication of an authorized crosswalk
is a signpost, instead of markings in the street visible to drivers. Drivers
must be ready to stop on short notice and drive defensively.
and roads in smaller towns are not illuminated, and emergency services are not
reliable or prompt. Use caution driving outside of major cities after dark.
Snow removal is intermittent and unreliable, creating dangerous conditions especially
along secondary roads. Subsequent snowfall and ice build-up cause considerable
traffic delays, parking problems, and accidents.
accidents are common, and even fender-benders routinely tie up traffic. Drivers
involved in accidents may not move their vehicles unless not doing so presents
a clear safety concern. Drivers must notify police, who will then decide
responsibility, take each driver’s personal information, and file an accident
report. Even in Kyiv, accident evaluation can take up to two hours before
vehicles can move. The introduction of the Patrol Police has reduced response
times, but heavy traffic and limited resources, especially outside major
cities, continues to delay the arrival of police and ambulances.
Affairs Ministry statistics on traffic accident related fatalities and injuries
are alarming; on average, road accidents kill eight people die and injure 90 more
every day nationwide.
160,675 road incidents, the majority accidents (15.5% increase from 2018)
32,736 injuries on roads (13.5% increase from 2018)
3,454 deaths on roads (12.4% increase from 2018)
The speed limit within city limits is 50
kilometers per hour. Ukraine has a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the
influence of alcohol or drugs. Violations may result in fines, imprisonment,
and/or deportation. Non-payment of traffic or parking fines may result in
travel bans, which means you cannot leave the country until you pay the fines
(plus any penalties). Using a cellular telephone or texting while driving is
illegal. Do not turn right on a red light, unless there is a special green arrow
sign attached to the stoplight. Front seat belts are mandatory.
authorities restrict travel in a 30-kilometer radius surrounding the Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and
Evasive Driving Techniques; and
read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
Ukraine has an extensive train, bus, subway, and
airport transportation system. Large cities also have aboveground trolleys and
small shuttle buses (marshrutkas).
Buses and trolleys in Kyiv occasionally break down but are generally safe. Many
incidents of criminal activity occur on the public transport system, including
the metro. When riding public transportation, keep purses, shoulder bags, and
backpacks closed, in front of you, or tucked under your arm to prevent theft.
marked taxis. Fares are given in advance when you order a taxi by phone, but passengers
typically negotiate prices with the driver in advance if hailing a cab in the
street. Do not sit in the front seat of the taxi, enter a taxi with unknown
passengers, or travel to unfamiliar areas. Many cars, including some taxis, do
not meet U.S. safety standards.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that Ukraine complies with the
international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation
restricted air space zone exists over Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In 2014, a
Malaysia Airlines civilian aircraft was shot down in an area controlled by
Russian-backed separatists, killing 297 people.
Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kyiv
as being a MEDIUM-threat location
for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Small-scale
bombings continue to occur throughout Ukraine. Regular acts of low-level
terrorism target Ukrainian government establishments and result primarily in
property damage.Most attacks occur at night and appear intended to cause property damage
and incite fear. Multiple attacks within the past year have been fatal,
sometimes occurring in populated areas during daylight hours. Seizures of
weapons caches are common, and intermittent reports of individual use of grenades
and similar ordnance to settle disputes underscores the availability of
weapons. In 2019, many incidents related to illegally obtained grenades or
explosives. Ukrainian security services response to these threats has been
deliberate, coordinated, and increasingly proactive.
Notable incidents in 2019:
- In April 2019 in Kyiv, an unknown individual died while attempting to
install an IED under the vehicle of a Ukrainian military officer.
- In October
2019 in Kyiv, a man entered a local market on the left bank in the late evening
and threw a grenade; the explosion caused some damage to the store, but no
- In November 2019 in Kyiv, a police officer died during an assassination
attempt on the director of a pharmaceutical company. The assailant, riding a
motorcycle, placed an IED on the roof of the target’s moving vehicle, killing
the police officer and injuring the driver and a passenger.
- In December
2019 in Kyiv, the three-year-old son of a Kyiv Regional Deputy Council died during
an assassination attempt on his father. The assailants fired shots into the
Deputy’s vehicle from a nearby building, killing his son.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kyiv
as being a HIGH-threat location for
political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
In 2014, Russian forces illegally invaded the Crimean Peninsula. There
is extensive Russian Federation military presence in Crimea as part of Russia’s
occupation and attempted annexation of this part of Ukraine, which the
international community, including the United States and Ukraine, does not
recognize. There are continuing abuses against and arbitrary imprisonment of
foreigners and the local population by the occupation authorities in
Crimea, particularly abuses against individuals seen as challenging Russian
authority on the peninsula. Significant human rights issues in Russia-occupied
Crimea include abductions; torture and abuse of detainees to extract
confessions and punish persons resisting the occupation; unlawful detention;
significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; restrictions on
free expression, the press, and the internet, including for members of the
press; and restrictions on the rights of peaceful assembly, association, and
religion. The U.S. government prohibits employees from traveling to Crimea and
is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens there.
Russia-led forces took control of
certain territories in the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014, have
prolonged the conflict, and prevented reintegration of these territories with
the government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Diplomatic negotiations conducted
most prominently though the Trilateral Contact Group and Normandy Format have
not yet ended the armed conflict, though negotiations are ongoing. Russia-led
forces reportedly have engaged in killings of civilians, forced disappearances
and abductions, torture, unlawful detentions, and gender-based violence. Gunmen
representing the self-proclaimed authorities have been specifically targeted U.S.
citizens and threatened, detained, or kidnapped them for hours or days. Other
egregious human right issues in the areas controlled by Russia-led forces
included harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions;
political prisoners; the absence of judicial independence; severe restrictions
on freedom of expression, the press, and the internet; restrictions on the
rights of peaceful assembly, association, and religion; restrictions on freedom
of movement across the line of contact in eastern Ukraine; and unduly
restricted humanitarian aid. Shortages of water, power, medicine, and food
supplies have also occurred in Russian-proxy-controlled territory, and
widespread disorder and looting has been confirmed in these areas. The U.S.
government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens
in this area.
the fall of the Yanukovych government in 2014, demonstrations, marches, and
commemorations occur regularly through the center of Kyiv, especially near the
Parliament (Rada) and Presidential
Office buildings. These near-daily events are mostly peaceful and vary in
demands, inspiration, and size (ranging from dozens of people to thousands),
but on occasion result in violent confrontations with police. In general, avoid
large demonstrations and crowds -- even peaceful ones -- as they may become
violent without warning and attract petty criminals and hooligans. If attending
such events, remain on the perimeter of any crowd and identify easy exit routes
should problems occur. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Although religious and ethnic violence
is rare in Ukraine, there have been some such incidents involving known hate
groups. While most foreigners do not encounter problems with violent crime,
there is potential for violently motivated racial and biased-motivated crimes
against non-Slavic and religious minorities. Victims have reported verbal
harassment, discrimination, and physical assaults on the streets. Although
senior government officials have publicly condemned these crimes, slow response
to hate crimes is a continuing concern.
Occupation authorities in Crimea
continued to engage in violence against and harassment of Crimean Tatars and
pro-Ukrainian activists in response to peaceful opposition to Russian
Flooding has occurred in western
Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains during the spring thaw.
explosion and fire at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located 90 km
northwest of Kyiv, led to an uncontrolled release of radiation. The accident
resulted in the largest short-term release of radioactive materials into the
atmosphere ever recorded. The areas with the highest radioactive ground
contamination occurred within 30 kilometers of the station. This area is now an
uninhabited exclusion zone. Favorable winds kept most of the contamination away
from Kyiv, although the capital was not immune. The plant's last operating
reactor closed in 2000. The Embassy maintains a close cooperative relationship
with authorities responsible for monitoring the radiological and operational
conditions at nuclear facilities.
fires continue to be a concern in the 30-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl. Although
fires have occurred, authorities have been quick to extinguish them and have
reported no significant increase in radiation levels outside the zone.
ongoing conflict with Russia has periodically raised concerns about the
security of Ukraine’s natural gas supply. In addition, the Ukraine-Russia
conflict has resulted in coal supply interruptions that could affect power
generation, especially at anthracite coal-fired plants. Ukraine is working to
improve energy efficiency, diversify supply of fuels, and convert anthracite
units to gas-grade coal to mitigate these concerns.
has a long history of inadequate intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.
The United States designated Ukraine a Priority Foreign Country in the 2013
Special 301 Report due to the widespread use of unlicensed (pirated) software
within the government and in the private sector. Other issues included the
transshipment and sale of counterfeit goods and rampant Internet piracy. In
2015, the U.S. Government upgraded Ukraine to the Special 301 Priority Watch
List based on evidence that the Government of Ukraine had made progress in
tackling these problems as part of broader economic reforms. However, tangible
progress in protecting IPR has been limited, and Ukraine remains on the
Priority Watch List.
Ukraine has improved anti-money-laundering controls,
resulting in its removal from the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF's)
Noncooperative Countries and Territories List in 2004. FATF continues to monitor
Ukraine's anti-money-laundering regime.
Personal Identity Concerns
motivated attacks occur in Ukraine. Victims report verbal harassment,
discrimination, and physical assaults. All foreigners – including those who are
not racial minorities – should exercise an appropriate level of caution. Senior
government officials have publicly condemned these crimes, but slow response to
hate crimes is a continuing concern.
Domestic violence against women remains a
serious problem. Spousal abuse is common. Women’s rights groups report
continuing and widespread sexual harassment, including coerced sex, in the
workplace. Women rarely seek legal recourse because courts decline to hear
their cases and rarely convict perpetrators. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for female travelers.
sexual activity between consenting adults in private is legal in Ukraine, but
the prevailing social attitude is intolerant of the LGBTI+ community. Societal
violence against LGBTI+ persons often involves members of violent radical
groups; authorities often do not adequately investigate these cases or hold
perpetrators to account. Police rarely classify attacks against members of the
LGBTI+ community and other minorities under criminal provisions pertaining to
hate crimes, which carry heavier penalties. Crimes and discrimination against
LGBTI+ persons remain underreported. Radical groups consistently try to disrupt
LGBTI+ events with violence or threats of violence. There have been consistent
attempts to disrupt Pride Week activities. Annual LGBTI+ parades took place in
downtown Kyiv and Kharkiv in 2019. Although police were robust in their support
for secure parades, a few minor incidents occurred, as did a small number of
arrests. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
There has been a drop in anti-Semitic violence
and vandalism due to better police work and prosecution of those committing
anti-Semitic acts. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and
the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
Accessibility is an issue in Ukraine. Public
transport systems are not fully accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Some newer buildings feature ramps and elevators, but older buildings do not. Check
ahead with your hotel/destination to learn more about options to accommodate
disabled traveler needs before visiting. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for travelers with disabilities.
There is limited cultivation of cannabis and
opium poppy in Ukraine, mostly for consumption in former Soviet Bloc countries,
as well as some synthetic drug production for export to the West. Ukraine is a
transshipment point for opiates and other illicit drugs from Africa, Latin
America, and Turkey to Europe and Russia.
Recently, there has been an increase in
reports of criminals luring unsuspecting visitors to Ukraine with promises of
cheap lodging and/or companionship. The criminals then forcibly abduct the
visitors and proceed to make unauthorized transactions via their victims’ bank
cards and accounts. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to the eastern
regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, and the Crimean peninsula. Russian-backed separatists
continue to control areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. These groups have
established illegal checkpoints and have threatened, detained, or kidnapped
individuals, including U.S. citizens, for hours or days. Travelers to, in,
near, or through these areas are subject to threats of mines and other
unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as sniper and other small arms fire
exchanges. The situation is constantly changing.
The police emergency line in
Kyiv and other major cities is 102. There
may not be an English-speaking operator available. Ukrainian law enforcement
agencies do not meet Western standards, and their ability to investigate
criminal incidents adequately is limited. While there has been some significant
progress (e.g. the Patrol Police in Kyiv), response time remains below Western
standards and case resolution remains an ongoing problem. The police are often
reluctant to take victim statements in cases of a minor criminal act, primarily
to avoid poor crime statistics and additional work. Due to insufficient pay,
law enforcement officers often lack the motivation to solve crimes.
must carry personal identification documents. Local law enforcement may stop
people on the street to conduct identification checks, and require no probable
cause. Foreign visitors should carry a copy of their passport’s identification
page at all times.
remains a persistent problem in Ukraine, including reports of prosecutions of
anti-corruption activists. Some see law enforcement agencies as part of the
problem, but there has been some progress with the establishment of a new police
structure. Police rarely possess English-language capability, even in units
designated to combat crimes against foreign nationals. As a result, reporting a
crime and following up on the status of a case is often a difficult and lengthy
process. Download the State Department’s Crime
Victims Assistance brochure.
Affairs Ministry (MVD) is responsible for maintaining internal security and
order. The Ministry oversees police and other law enforcement personnel. The
Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is responsible for state security broadly
defined, nonmilitary intelligence, and counterintelligence and counterterrorism
matters. MVD reports to the Cabinet of Ministers, and the SBU reports directly
to the president. The Defense Ministry protects the country against foreign and
domestic aggression, ensures sovereignty and the integrity of national borders,
and exercises control over the activities of the armed forces. The president is
the supreme commander in chief of the armed forces. The Defense Ministry reports
directly to the president. The State Fiscal Tax Service exercises law
enforcement powers through the tax police and reports to the Cabinet of
Ministers. The State Migration Service under the MVD implements state policy
regarding border security, migration, citizenship, and registration of refugees
and other migrants.
The medical emergency line in
Kyiv and other major cities is 103. There
may not be an English-speaking operator available. Ambulance crews do not
respond quickly and do not often include trained paramedics. The
general quality of healthcare in Ukraine does not meet U.S. standards. Travelers
with pre-existing conditions should carefully consider whether adequate care
would be available during a trip to Ukraine. Find contact information for available medical services and available
air ambulance services on the Embassy’s Medical
with chronic medical conditions that require medication should bring enough
medicine with them, since medicine may not be readily available. You may not
import narcotic pain relievers into Ukraine, even in small quantities and with
a prescription. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
at government clinics and hospitals are lower than those at private clinics,
but there have been reports that doctors request bribes or additional payments
before treating patients. Private physicians and private hospitals charge fees
for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Public facilities only accept cash payments,
while most private clinics accept credit cards. Consider purchasing traveler's
medical evacuation (medevac) insurance before arriving. Familiarize yourself
with the conditions of existing medical coverage and medical resources in
Ukraine. The fastest way to secure Western medical care remains medevac to
Western Europe. This is a very expensive option, and assistance may not arrive
until several hours after the need for care arises. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas. By Ukrainian law, all foreigners coming to
Ukraine must have medical insurance covering their period of travel.
government has a service to control fresh foods and meats, but it is difficult
to confirm its effectiveness. Avoid wild berries, wild fowl and game, and
mushrooms originating from areas surrounding Chornobyl, as these retain higher
than average levels of radiation. Radiation background levels vary in different
areas depending on natural/geological conditions, industrial development
levels, and specific industries. In Ukraine, the allowable limit for background
radiation is 25 microrems per hour. Since 1987, levels exceeding that figure
have not been observed in Kyiv; the average and constant numbers for Kyiv are
12-14 microrems/hour. The State Emergency Service website
posts daily readings on background radiation.
water is not potable, but it is safe for bathing and cooking in large cities. Review
I’m Drinking What in My Water?
Influenza and Tuberculosis are
prevalent in Ukraine. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and
health guidance for Ukraine.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Kyiv Country Council meets at least
four times a year and has approximately 50 members. Interested private-sector
security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Aircraft Designer Igor Sikorsky Street, Kyiv, Ukraine 04112
Вул. Авіаконструктора Ігоря Сікорського, 4, Київ, Україна
of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700
Telephone: +38 (044) 521-5000
American Citizen Services: +38 (044) 521-5566
Regional Security Office: +38 (044) 521-5515
Before you travel, consider the following resources:
OSAC Risk Matrix
Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Ukraine Country Information Sheet