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Ukraine 2012 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Ukraine > Kyiv

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The government, which came to power in March 2010, has made slow progress with economic and political reforms. Economic recovery remains relatively stagnant, and democratic reforms have stalled or are reversing. Political discord during the past year increased with a corresponding increase in public demonstrations, but there were no significant anti-American incidents, and the number of crimes reported to the U.S. Embassy remained steady in comparison to last year.

Crime Threat

Ukraine's resident expatriate community and visiting tourists, including American citizens, are commonly the target of street crimes of opportunity and property crimes. The U.S. Department of State continues to rate the crime threat as high. The crime situation in Kyiv – and throughout the country – is aggravated by widespread government corruption and inadequate law enforcement support. There was no improvement with regard to corruption or inefficiency in the last year. The U.S. Embassy expects crime to remain a serious problem in 2012, with the potential for an increase in street crime corresponding with the influx of tourists for the UEAFA Euro 2012 football tournament in June and July 2012. Ukraine will host the games in four major cities. Foreign tourists may anticipate a high level of street crime associated with crowds drawn to the tournament.

When compared to other Eastern European cities, the criminal threat in Kyiv does not appear to be significantly different. Kyiv is a big city with big city problems. The patterns observed in crimes reported to the U.S. Embassy indicate a significant percentage of incidents transpire on public transportation or in locations frequented by large numbers of foreign tourists. These incidents tended to be non-violent; street criminals are not prone to violence. In 2011, the majority of reported criminal activity consisted of petty theft (pick-pocketing, purse snatching) or fraud. Incidents of hate crimes directed against non-Slavic ethnic and religious minorities (including the Orthodox Jewish community) continued to decrease, but should not be ignored. Violent crime directed against foreigners is relatively uncommon.

Ukraine is still recovering from a severe economic crisis – the Ukrainian Hryvna has depreciated over 40 percent since 2008, with GDP growing 4.7 percent in 2011 after a moderate 4.4 percent increase in 2010. In 2012, GDP is expected to continue to grow slowly (3.9 percent). Unemployment is running at 7.7 percent (IMF estimate). These economic conditions continue to create conditions favorable to the criminal element, and crime remains the most significant day-to-day threat facing American citizens resident in or visiting Ukraine.

Identity theft involving ATMs and credit cards is extremely widespread, with a considerable increase in reported incidents in 2011. The U.S. Embassy advises staff that the only safe ATMs are the ones located on the embassy compound. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considers Ukraine a hotbed of cyber crime activity. In recent years, U.S. law enforcement – the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – pursued a number of important joint cyber crime/identify theft investigations with Ukrainian law enforcement authorities. Short-term visitors – for example, tourists who may not be familiar with local customs or fluent in Ukrainian or Russian – remain more susceptible to street crime and confidence scams and are specifically targeted by criminals. 

The most common scam is the “Wallet Scam.” In many cases, these incidents occur at locations frequented by foreigners, i.e., high-end hotels, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, Saint Michael’s Cathedral, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Andriyivskyi Uzviz, etc. There are many variations to this scam, but all involve an attempt to get the victim to pick up a wallet or a plastic bag containing currency. The typical scam involves a crook who “inadvertently” drops a wallet or a plastic bag in front of a potential victim. The crook then asks the victim if the wallet/bag belongs to him/her. More often, however, the victim picks the wallet/bag up and returns it the person who “dropped” it. The criminal will then try to get the victim to handle the money in the wallet/bag or will handle/count the currency himself. After this, the criminal will state that money is “missing” and then loudly and aggressively (but in a non-violent manner) accuse the victim of stealing the money. The crook will threaten to call the police to panic the victim. A second crook interjects by introducing himself as a “police officer” and briefly showing "police 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 "police officer" will then count the money in front of the victim. As the victim did not take any money as claimed by the first crook, many victims hand over their wallets without hesitation to the “police officer.” When the wallet is produced, the criminal(s) may grab it and flee, or more often, steal a large portion of the victim’s money by sleight of hand. 

Marriage and dating scams via the Internet are routinely reported. There have been numerous instances of U.S. citizens being extorted for thousands of dollars by Internet contacts they thought were their friends, loved ones, or romantic interests. These Internet scams include lotteries, on-line dating or introduction services, and requests from a “friend” in trouble. 

Due to corruption and the Ukrainian government’s inability to provide a Western-level police force, foreign visitors and residents must be prepared to exercise an increased level of awareness, implement precautions that would be appropriate for any large city in the United States or Europe, and review their personal security measures regularly.   

Official Ministry of Internal Affairs crime statistics indicated an increase in all categories of crime, including violent crime, in 2011. The number of property crimes - theft, burglaries, and fraud – remained high. The main foreign targets for property crime are longer-term foreign residents including diplomats, business people, and persons with missionary groups and private voluntary organizations. Violent and non-violent property crimes have been reported, albeit infrequently. The most common types of non-violent property crime affecting the resident expatriate community are vandalism, theft of personal property from parked vehicles, and residential burglaries. Violent property crimes are less frequent.  

While most foreigners do not encounter problems with violent crime in Ukraine, there is potential for racially-motivated attacks. Crimes directed against non-Slavic and religious minorities (especially members of the Orthodox Jewish community) increased through 2008 but have steadily decreased in number since then. Victims have reported verbal harassment and discrimination as well as physical assaults. Persons of various ethnicities have been targeted. Victims have also included members of the diplomatic community. Regardless of racial or ethnic background, all foreigners – even those who are not racial minorities – visiting or resident in Ukraine should be aware of hate crime in Ukraine and exercise an appropriate level of caution.  

Slow response to hate crimes is a serious and continuing concern. Although senior government officials have publicly deplored these hate crimes, Ukrainian street-level law enforcement officials are either unwilling or are unable to deter hate crimes effectively or to protect racial minorities adequately. 

Road Safety

Vehicles are left-hand drive and drive on the right-hand side of the road. Traffic in Kyiv is heavy on weekdays during commute hours, and routine travel within the city during workdays is often delayed due to heavy, unexpected (and often, inexplicable) traffic patterns. In Kyiv, main thoroughfares are usually well-lit and maintained, but side streets and less commonly used avenues are often poorly illuminated, narrow, and less maintained. During heavy snowfall, snow removal can be haphazard especially along secondary roads. The subsequent snowfall and ice build-up can cause considerable traffic delays and parking problems.   

Driving in Kyiv can be a challenge to foreigners. Traffic laws are routinely disregarded by local drivers, i.e., 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 an accepted practice, and pedestrians, especially those walking with small children, should exercise caution. Cars also routinely drive on sidewalks, especially in central Kyiv, moving to and from sidewalk parking, much of it illegal. Ukrainian drivers will also stop in busy traffic lanes to frequent roadside kiosks or to pick-up or drop off passengers; pedestrians often cross busy streets without hesitation. Drivers should be prepared to stop on short notice. Defensive driving is a fundamental rule that should always be observed.

Road conditions deteriorate rapidly outside Kyiv. Although there are some modern highways that connect main cities (for example, the highway from Kyiv to Odessa), a majority of these roads are in poor condition. In winter months, snow removal outside of Kyiv is rudimentary. Construction hazards are not always well marked. Most highways and roads in smaller towns are not illuminated, and emergency services are not reliable or prompt. Therefore, it is recommended to drive outside of Kyiv only during daylight hours. Visitors should plan any driving trips accordingly.

Political Violence

Historical Perspective

The U.S. Embassy’s Chancery compound was the site of approximately seven anti-American protests and demonstrations in 2011, organized by various groups. Demonstrations ranged in size from 12 people to 30. All demonstrations were peaceful and concluded without incident. Other anti-American/NATO protests in 2011, not conducted at the Chancery, occurred in Odessa during U.S. warship visits to the Black Sea port. The largest anti-American protest in recent memory occurred at the Chancery compound on March 2008, to protest the April visit of President Bush to Kyiv. Approximately 2,500 individuals protested peacefully without incident.    

There is no widespread, organized anti-American political movement in Ukraine. Certain groups do espouse anti-American rhetoric and/or are opposed to U.S. “encroachment.” These groups tend to be regionally based (for example, in Crimea); are very issue-specific (the Cuban 5); or have an aging and diminishing demographic base (the Communist Party of Ukraine). As a result, these groups do not have widespread support throughout the country; certainly none of the major political leaders or their parties condones an anti-American platform. The U.S. Embassy does not expect that the level, frequency, or scope of anti-American rhetoric and/or protests will change considerably from 2011 levels. Politically-motivated anti-American demonstrations are always a security concern. As in any foreign country, it is advisable for American citizens to avoid all demonstrations.          

Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

Regional or indigenous terrorism is not considered to be a major threat in Ukraine. There were several incidents involving the explosion of small Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that Ukrainian authorities classified as terrorist acts in 2011. But, these incidents did not meet U.S. definitions of terrorist acts and would be classified as extortion incidents.  

In the past, harassment, extortion, protection rackets, and intimidation with ties to organized crime have been reported against American investors or business interests. In some cases, it appears that individuals with local commercial interests, who may have had links to organized crime groups, were behind these incidents. Although still a concern, these types of reported incidents have declined over the past few years. In 2011, there were no incidents reported to the Embassy of American businesses being targeted by organized crime. However, American businesses did report problems with local government entities engaging in such practices as arbitrary termination or amendment of business licenses, arbitrary “inspections” by tax, safety or other officials, and overt surveillance that appear designed to harass.

American firms should continue to pay close attention to information protection when establishing operations in Ukraine, as a heightened awareness of cyber crime is essential, as evidence strongly suggests that Ukrainian organized crime is actively supporting professional cyber criminals. U.S. law enforcement agencies are working very closely with their Ukrainian government counterparts in this area. Several U.S.-Ukrainian criminal cyber crime joint investigations were opened in 2011 by the FBI and USSS, and are on-going. U.S. law enforcement anticipates continued expansion of joint investigations in 2012.   

International Terrorism or Transnational Terrorism

Transnational terrorism is not considered to be major threat in Ukraine. This assessment takes into account historical data relevant to terrorist activities in Ukraine and current and projected Ukrainian law enforcement and security service anti-terrorist activities. Nevertheless, travelers should be aware of the U.S. Department of State’s Worldwide Caution ( reemphasizes the continued threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests overseas. Public announcements and the Consular Information Sheet for Ukraine are available on the Department of State website at: 

Ukraine did not suffer from transnational terrorism incidents in 2011. Furthermore, there have been no recorded acts of transnational terrorism committed on Ukrainian territory to date. Admittedly, Ukraine's borders are porous, which transnational terrorist groups potentially could exploit. To counter this, the Ukrainian government is taking steps, with U.S. and Allied assistance, to improve border security.

Civil Unrest

Ukraine has been largely free of significant civil unrest or disorder, with the significant exception of the November-December 2004 Orange Revolution. More recently, there were a number of political demonstrations held in the center of Kyiv in the lead-up to the presidential elections in February 2010 - with several hundred to several thousand participants.  

In 2011, Ukraine saw an increase in the number of demonstrations across the country in response to domestic political and economic issues. None of these protests involved U.S. interests. There were ongoing demonstrations during the trial of former Prime-minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Opposition and pro-government parties literally camped on the street outside the courthouse and jail for weeks during her trial, blaring their message through banks of loud speakers. Major cities around Ukraine experienced protests by disaffected Afghanistan war veterans and Chernobyl responder veterans. The majority of large demonstrations (some numbering up to 15,000) took place at the parliament building or on major public squares. Police presence was routinely heavy at political demonstrations, often with deployed riot police almost equaling the number of demonstrators. There were occurrences of minor violence associated with a number of demonstrations as protestors clashed with police or counter-protestors.  

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Flooding routinely occurs in the spring in western Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains during the spring thaw. In summer 2008, there was serious and widespread flooding that resulted in significant damage and loss of life. Flooding again occurred in 2009 and 2010, but not at 2008’s levels. There are no other major natural disasters that routinely occur in Ukraine.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

In 1986, the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (unit no. 4), located 90 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, experienced an explosion and fire, followed by an uncontrolled release of radiation. The accident resulted in the largest short-term, accidental release of radioactive materials in the atmosphere ever recorded. The highest areas of radioactive ground contamination occurred within 30 kilometers of the Chornobyl station. A favorable wind direction kept most of the contamination away from Kyiv, although the capital city was not spared completely. The Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant's last operating reactor closed officially on December 15, 2000.  

Ukraine has 15 operating commercial nuclear reactors, but none are of the Chornobyl design. The United States has provided extensive assistance to enhance nuclear and operational safety of these reactors. All identified stabilization measures on the existing sarcophagus are complete. Construction of the new structure around the existing sarcophagus started in 2009 and is currently scheduled for completion in 2014.  

Food that exceeds European norms for radiation is confiscated and destroyed. The government has an effective program of monitoring fresh foods and meats sold in local markets. Street purchase of produce should be avoided. Wild berries, mushrooms, and wild fowl and game should be avoided, as these have been found to retain higher than average levels of radiation. Background levels of radiation are monitored regularly by the U.S. Embassy and other organizations and to date have not exceeded levels found on the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

In the event of any accident at a nuclear power station, the U.S. Embassy has the capability to confirm local government reporting of background radiation levels and food contamination. The Embassy continuously monitors the radiological and operational conditions at Ukrainian nuclear facilities. Radiation measurements at all U.S. Embassies in Eastern Europe following the 1986 Chornobyl accident did not warrant the evacuation of U.S. government employees or their dependents, including pregnant women and children. Flying and other modes of transportation used to evacuate people when nuclear material may be in the air can present a greater hazard than staying in place. If external radiation levels are high enough to require evacuation, the U.S. Embassy will notify the American community via the Embassy's warden system. On-line registration is available at    

Due to heavy traffic and local driving habits, vehicle accidents are common. In Ukraine, motorists involved in vehicle accidents are not permitted to move the vehicles unless it presents a clear safety concern. Fender-benders routinely tie up traffic. Police must be notified and will go to the accident location to conduct the investigation. Persons should be prepared to wait until the police arrive and complete their report. Due to traffic and slow police response, it may take up to several hours for police to arrive especially outside of Kyiv. When police arrive, they will ascertain responsibility, take the drivers' personal information, and file a report of the accident.

No significant aviation or other transportation accidents occurred in Ukraine in 2011.


Kidnapping is not a common occurrence in Ukraine and is not considered a major security issue. There were no notable instances of kidnapping in 2011.

Drugs and Narco-terrorism:

Combating narcotics trafficking is a national priority, but limited budget resources hamper Ukraine's ability to effectively counter this threat. In addition, coordination between law enforcement agencies responsible for counter-narcotics continues to be stilted due to regulatory and jurisdictional constraints as well as bureaucratic intransigence.

Ukraine is not a major drug producing country; however, it is located astride several important drug trafficking routes into Europe. Ukraine's ports on the Black and Azov Seas, extensive river transportation routes, porous northern and eastern borders, and inadequately financed Border and Customs Agencies make Ukraine an attractive route for drug traffickers. In 2010, Ukrainian customs officials at the port of Odessa, in cooperation with U.S. government agencies, made three significant cocaine seizures originating from South America.  

There are no known links between transnational terrorist and narcotics organizations in Ukraine; and in 2011, there were no charges or allegations of corruption of senior public officials relating to drugs or drug trafficking.

Police Response

Although criminal activity in Ukraine directed against foreigners is likely comparable with similar Eastern European countries, the underlying issue of why criminal activity remains a serious concern is due to the lack of adequate Ukrainian police enforcement and response. In general, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies do not meet U.S./Western European standards, and their ability to deter street-level criminal activity is low, as is their ability to investigate criminal incidents adequately. This situation is not expected to change. 

With the UEAFA Euro 2012 tournament scheduled to take place in Ukraine and Poland in summer 2012, pertinent Ukrainian police and defense authorities participated in various bilateral training exercises. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has pledged to train large numbers of police to speak basic English; however, these efforts may have been a bit optimistic. 

Under Ukrainian law, individuals are required to carry personal identification documents at all times, and it is common for local law enforcement to stop persons on the street to conduct identification checks. Unlike the United States, no "probable cause" is required. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy recommends that you carry your passport at all times. For foreigners, often these police identification checks are simply an excuse to elicit bribes, extort money, or harass minorities.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Corruption is a tremendous problem in Ukraine (Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perceptions index lists Ukraine as 152 out of 182 surveyed countries). Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are often part of the problem rather than a part of the solution. In IFES public opinion polls sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), “the police” and “the judiciary” are consistently in the top three of least trusted/most corrupt government institutions. Low salaries, inadequate training, poor working conditions, and shortages of basic equipment contribute greatly to systemic internal corruption and general ineffectiveness. 

Incidents of police harassment and discrimination against minorities are also occasionally reported. Police more frequently stop minorities for identity checks and often question them about drug possession. Uniformed police have harassed American citizens and U.S. government employees simply because of their race. Americans who are the subjects of official or other violent/nonviolent harassment should report such incidents to the American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Embassy.

Harassment or detention by police should be reported to the Embassy at (044) 521-5000 or the U.S. Consular Section (044) 521-5566, as soon as possible. Ukrainian authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy within 72 hours of the detention of a U.S. citizen. If detained by police, it is strongly recommended that you ask (and continue to ask) for access to the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime 

Police units rarely have English-language capability, even among officials working in units designated to combat crimes against foreign nationals. As a result, reporting a crime to the police is often a difficult and lengthy process. Subsequent follow-up to determine the status of a case often requires lengthy visits to police stations.

Despite this, the U.S. Embassy recommends that Americans report crimes to the police, as well as to the Embassy. In the event that police will not accept a crime report, the Embassy’s American Citizen Services can forward the complaint to the police. Reporting a crime is also advisable even if time has elapsed since the crime occurred, as criminals often repeat the same crime within the same general locale. Finally, a police report also is strongly recommended when an American passport has been lost or stolen.

If you become a victim of a crime in Ukraine, you may contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance:

U.S. Embassy
4 Aircraft Designer Igor Sikorsky Street, Kyiv, Ukraine 04112
Вул. Авіаконструктора Ігоря Сікорського, 4, Київ, Україна 04112
Telephone: (38-044) 521-5000.

U.S. Consular Section
Telephone: (38-044) 521-5460, fax (38-044) 521-5425 
American Citizen Services unit telephone: (38-044) 521-5566, fax (38-044) 521-5544 

Although there is no comparable "911" service in Ukraine, the general fire emergency telephone number is "101"; the police emergency number is "102"; the ambulance/emergency medical services number is "103." These numbers can be used in Kyiv and in major cities; however, there may not be an English speaking operator.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Local Hospitals and Clinics

Minor Emergencies & Routine Care in Kyiv

Address: 55A, Velyka Vasylkivska Street, Kyiv
24-HOUR PHONE: 238-0000

Address: 8, Kondratyka Street, Kyiv
24-HOUR PHONE: 432–8888 or 055

Major Trauma/Emergency 

Main Military Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
24 hours a day
Address: 18 Gospitalnaya Street, Kyiv
24 hour phone: 269-7095

National Emergency and Trauma Hospital
24 hours a day 
Address: 3 Bratislavskaya street
24 hour Information Service: 518-5111
24 hour Admittance department: 518-0629
24 hour Multi-Trauma department: 518-7259
24 hour Hospital Resuscitation/Intensive Care Department: 518-7020

Medical facilities in Ukraine do not meet Western standards. Travelers with pre-existing conditions should carefully consider whether adequate care would be available during a trip to Ukraine. Travelers who have chronic medical conditions which require medication should bring enough medicine to Ukraine since medicine may not be readily available in-country, with the exception of narcotic pain relievers, which may not be imported into Ukraine even in small quantities. We encourage Americans planning a trip to Ukraine to purchase traveler's insurance before departing and to familiarize themselves with the conditions of their existing medical coverage and medical resources in Ukraine. Travelers may wish to review further medical advice for conditions in Ukraine at 

The fastest way to secure Western medical care remains medical evacuation to Western Europe. This is a very expensive option, and assistance may not arrive until several hours after the need for care arises. Again, travelers should purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to travel or have access to substantial lines of credit to cover the cost of medical evacuation.

Air Ambulance Service:

SOS:   007-495-937-6477 (24/7 phone)-Moscow
TRICARE/SOS (for U.S. military): 00 44-20-8762-8133 (24/7 phone)  London
EURO FLITE:   00 358-20-510-1900 (24/7 phone) Finland
MEDEX Assistance Corporation:   00 410-453-6330 (24/7 phone) US

There are several European firms that provide private jet evacuations, and the AMC and Boris Clinic in Kyiv can organize and assist with evacuation for a fee. Aero medical evacuation companies that service Ukraine include: SOS, EURO FLITE, MEDEX Assistance Corporation, as well as TRICARE/SOS (for military personnel). Boris Clinic has a limited agreement with Tricare. Contact information for additional insurance and medevac companies can be found at the Embassy's Consular website at  

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim


If presented with the “Wallet Scam” scenario or any other variant (sometimes more than two criminals are involved), do not pick up the wallet or bag, and simply walk away and do not engage the perpetrators in conversation. Foreigners are more likely to be confronted with this confidence scam since they do not know local laws. As in previous years, American citizens in 2011 were specifically targeted. There is no doubt that criminals will use the “Wallet Scam” in 2012 to continue to victimize unsuspecting foreigners.   

ATM and credit card fraud are extremely widespread and on the rise. "The Wallet Scam" remains a common confidence scam used by criminals to victimize foreigners in Ukraine. Increased awareness, common sense, and a regular review of your personal and residential security measures are strongly recommended.  

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

There are no "off-limits" areas in Kyiv or in any other part of Ukraine. Many reported petty criminal incidents occur on public transport in Kyiv, especially the metro system. In addition, many pick-pocketing incidents are also reported in those areas frequented by large groups of people or tourists.

For Kyiv and throughout Ukraine, common sense security precautions anyone would take in any large city or Eastern European country would be prudent. To avoid becoming a victim of routine street crime, be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. When riding public transportation, where pick-pocketing and snatch thefts are a concern, keep purses, shoulder bags and backpacks closed, in front of you, and tucked under your arm to prevent theft. Men are advised to place wallets in a front pocket while on public transportation to prevent pick-pocketing. It is recommended to maintain a low profile and to not carry large sums of cash. If possible, leave wallets or purses secured at your residence and carry only necessary cash and identification in a front pocket. Refrain from carrying unnecessary items in your wallet or purse, such as credit cards, that you will not use. It is further recommended that you do not establish routine travel patterns or habits by varying your departure/arrival times and routes as much as possible between frequented locations.

Further Information

Country Code: 380
Kyiv City Code: 44

Regional Security Office:   521-5515
Embassy Kyiv General Number:   521-5000

Dialing instructions:
From another country: +38-044-521-5000
From within Ukraine: 044-521-5000

Embassy Kyiv Website:

The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that all Americans visiting or residing in Ukraine register with the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Registration will permit the Embassy to contact American citizens quickly in the event of an in-country emergency. On-line registration is available at    

OSAC Country Council

There is an OSAC Country Council in Kyiv that is a committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Ukraine. The current Country Council chair is the president of the AMCHAM. The Kyiv OSAC can be contacted through the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Officer, who is an ex-officio officer of the Country Council.