Report   DETAILS


Ukraine 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Ukraine

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Ukraine has been assessed as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Kyiv does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

 

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.

 

Please review OSAC’s Ukraine-specific 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.

Crime Threats

In Kyiv, National Police report an overall decrease in crime in 2017 over 2016. Despite this declaration, the overall perception among the general public is that crime is increasing, and there were incidents of more sensational crimes (public assassinations, armed robberies, violent assaults) reported through media outlets throughout 2017.

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. Residential burglaries are typically committed by forced entry when the occupant is not at home, or they occur as crimes of opportunity when doors are left unlocked.

Reports of drugging of drinks on trains continued in 2017, with the majority of victims claiming to lose consciousness and being robbed while unconscious. Discussions with medical personnel suggest that this activity is more common on overnight trains. In addition, there have also been a few reports of suspected drugging of drinks in drinking establishments in Kyiv. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

Due in part to the ongoing war in the east, illegal weapons-related crimes continued to increase in 2017.

There were a number of politically-motivated assassinations in Kyiv. While the prevalent methods included utilizing improvised explosive devices (IED) or firearms in broad daylight, to date these incidents have resulted in minimal collateral injuries/damage.

Reports of vehicle key-FOB intercepts increased in 2017. This criminal activity involves the perpetrator intercepting the transmission between the key-FOB and car as the victim locks the doors. The criminal is then able to enter the vehicle and steal the vehicle or contents left inside. Locking manually or standing close/next to the vehicle when locking prevents this activity.

There are few confidence scams in Ukraine. Foreigners are more likely to be confronted with this confidence scam since they do not know local laws. American citizens are heavily targeted.

"The Wallet Scam" remains a common scam by criminals. In many cases, these incidents occur at locations frequented by foreigners. There are many variations to this scam, but all involve an attempt to get the victim to pick up an item containing currency. The typical scam involves a suspect who seemingly inadvertently drops a wallet or a plastic bag in front of a potential victim. The suspect asks the victim if the wallet/bag belongs to him/her. Or, the victim picks the wallet/bag up and returns it the person who dropped it. The suspect tries to get the victim to handle the money in the wallet/bag or will handle/count the currency himself. The suspect states that money is missing and loudly/aggressively (but not violently) accuses the victim of stealing the money. The suspect will threaten to call the police to instill panic. Then an accomplice interjects by introducing himself as a police officer and flashes identification. The purported police officer will ask the victim to produce his/her wallet to ensure the victim did not take the money. The officer will count the money in front of the victim, or 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. If presented with this or any variant, do not pick up the wallet/bag, walk away, and do not engage.

In 2017, there was an increase in reports of criminals targeting visitors looking for companionship and conducting a scheme often referred to as ‘express kidnappings’. After they lure the visitor with promises of cheap lodging and/or companionship, the criminals forcibly abduct the visitor and make them conduct ATM/bank withdrawals via the victim’s bank cards and accounts, and/or the criminals themselves make ‎large sum purchases at stores in Kyiv using the victim’s cards.

Identity theft involving ATM/credit cards is prevalent and continues to be a concern, occurring on a regular basis. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

Cybersecurity Issues

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 online contacts they thought were friends, loved ones, or romantic interests. These scams include lotteries, on-line dating/introduction services, and requests from a “friend” in trouble. In such scams, supposed doctors, nurses, or civilian officials may contact the victim, stating 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 hardship.

Cybercrime activity affecting services in Ukraine remains a major concern for U.S. government and Ukrainian authorities. 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 utilizing a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN) for personal internet usage.

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 defaced publicly-accessible information and service portals—often with a political message.

Other Areas of Concern

The 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. As the situation is constantly changing, American citizens traveling to Ukraine should read the most recent Travel Advisory for Ukraine.

Travel is restricted and controlled for a 30-kilometer radius surrounding the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicles are left-side drive and drive on the right side of the road. Roads throughout are in various degrees of disrepair. Traffic in Kyiv is heavy on weekdays during commuting hours, and travel in the city during workdays is often delayed due to heavy, unexpected (and often, inexplicable) traffic patterns. Main thoroughfares are usually well-illuminated and maintained, but side streets and less commonly used avenues in/outside of Kyiv are often poorly illuminated, narrow, and poorly maintained. Driving can be a challenge to foreigners. Local drivers routinely disregard traffic laws (excessive speeding, driving the wrong way on one-way streets, driving in oncoming lanes to maneuver around blocked traffic, driving on sidewalks). Also due in part to heavy traffic and local driving habits, road rage is increasingly being reported in major cities.

Using sidewalks for parking is an accepted practice, and pedestrians, especially those with small children, should exercise caution. Cars also routinely drive on sidewalks, especially in central Kyiv, moving to/from sidewalk parking, much of it illegal. Drivers should also be alert for pedestrians, who often cross busy streets where they can and without hesitation. Drivers should be prepared to stop on short notice and drive defensively.

Most highways and roads in smaller towns are not illuminated, and emergency services are not reliable or prompt. Therefore, driving outside of major cities during hours of darkness should be undertaken with caution. Snow removal can be haphazard, especially along secondary roads, and the subsequent snowfall and ice build-up can cause considerable traffic delays and parking problems.

Due to heavy traffic and local driving habits, vehicle accidents are common. Motorists involved in accidents are not permitted to move the vehicles unless they present a clear safety concern. Fender benders routinely tie up traffic. Police must be notified and will come to conduct an investigation. Be prepared to wait until the police arrive and complete their report. Although the introduction of the Patrol Police has generally reduced response time, traffic issues and limited resources outside of major cities continue to delay the arrival of police and ambulances. Even within the city, accidents can take up to two hours to be attended. When police arrive, they will ascertain responsibility, take drivers' personal information, and file an accident report.

A Ministry of Internal Affairs report stated that in 2016, the number of Ukrainians killed in road accidents exceeded that of Ukrainian armed forces killed in the Donbas by four times. In 2016, almost 155,000 road accidents took place in Ukraine, with 25,000 of these resulting in casualties. Over 32,000 persons were injured and 3,187 died. Over the first nine months in 2017, 2,317 people died in 117,000 road accidents, and another 25,000 people were injured. Every day, eight people die in road accidents, and 92 more are injured.

A recent change to the traffic laws lowered the speed limit to 50 kilometers per hour from 60 km/h within the city limits.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Ukraine has an extensive train, bus, subway, and airport transportation system. Large cities also have above-ground trolleys and small shuttle buses (marshrutkas). Buses and trolleys in Kyiv occasionally break down but are generally considered safe. When riding public transportation, keep purses, shoulder bags, and backpacks closed, in front of you, or tucked under your arm to prevent theft.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

In 2013, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Ukraine complies with the international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

A restricted air space zone exists over Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines civilian aircraft was shot down in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists, killing 297 people.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kyiv as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Bomb threats to government buildings, metro stations, shopping malls, and train stations are received on an almost daily basis throughout the country. While Ukrainian authorities continue to respond appropriately to all threats, the vast majority are hoaxes.

There continue to be acts of low-level terrorism targeting Ukrainian government establishments that have primarily resulted in property damage. Seizures of caches of weapons are common, and intermittent reports of individual use of grenades and similar ordnance to settle disputes underscores the availability of weapons.

The response to these threats by the Ukrainian security services has been deliberate, coordinated, and increasingly pro-active.

The following incidents took place in 2017:

  • October: An IED placed in a motorcycle killed a Ukrainian lawmaker as he exited a meeting, along with others in Kyiv. Also, the wife of a Chechen dissident was shot and killed while driving outside of Kyiv.

  • September: A precision IED killed a Chechen dissident in rush hour traffic, in downtown Kyiv.

  • August: On Independence Day, an improvised explosive device (IED) was thrown at a Ukrainian Ministry of Defense motorcade, missing its target but injuring three pedestrians.

  • June: A protest of over 1,000 participants clashed with police near the Rada (Parliament) and involved at least 10 smoke bombs. Also, a small incendiary device was thrown over the fence into the Embassy shortly after midnight; no injuries were reported. Also, a high-ranking member of the military was assassinated in a car bomb attack in central Kyiv. Also, a series of powerful cyberattacks using the Petya malware swamped websites of Ukrainian organizations (banks, ministries, newspapers, electricity firms). Finally, two special service officers were killed in separate car bombings; a third officer was targeted, but the IED attached to his vehicle was found prior to detonation.

  • March: Less than one block from Embassy housing, a former Russian MP and key eyewitness to a legal case against former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, Denis Voronenkov was assassinated outside a hotel in broad daylight, in what the current Ukrainian President Poroshenko called “a Russian state terrorist act.” Also, the regional counterintelligence chief for the SBU in Mariupol was killed by remote-detonated IED in his car.

  • January: A prominent MP and his family were targeted in a Russian FSB-organized assassination attempt; the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) foiled their efforts.

    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.

    Civil Unrest

    From November 2013-February 2014, Ukraine witnessed civil unrest in almost every major city during the EuroMaidan protests. What began as peaceful pro-EU demonstrations, culminated in the deaths of more than 100 unarmed protestors on February 20 and the flight of the then-President on February 22.

    In March 2014, Russian forces illegally invaded the Crimean peninsula and continue to occupy Crimea in support of the Russian Federation’s claim of Crimean annexation. The U.S. and Ukraine do not recognize this annexation.

    Beginning in early April 2014, Russian-backed separatists’ occupation of territories in the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk has resulted in a prolonged war to reunify these oblasts with the rest of Ukraine. Multiple ceasefires and diplomatic negotiations, most prominently the Minsk Agreements, have not brought about peace, and armed conflict occurs on a daily basis.

    Since the fall of the former government, demonstrations, marches, and commemorations continue to occur regularly throughout the center of Kyiv, especially near the Parliament (Rada) and Presidential buildings. These events are mostly peaceful and vary in demands, inspiration, and impulse.

  • One demonstration held outside the Verkhovna Rada in August 2015 escalated when a participant threw an explosive device at National Guardsmen, killing four.

  • Since October 2017, a tent-city was established in the front and side of the Verkhovna Rada by protestors calling for impeachment of Ukraine’s president. Periodically, other groups use this area and infrastructure to demonstrate in support of their own causes. The structure blocks Hrushevskogo Street.

In general, it is advisable to avoid large demonstrations and crowds, even peaceful ones, as they may become violent without warning and may attract petty criminals and hooligans. However, if attending such events, it is always best to remain on the perimeter of crowds and identify easy exit routes should problems occur.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Although religious and ethnic violence is rare, there have been reports of both being carried out by individuals, mostly affiliated with hate groups.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Flooding occurred in western Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains, during the spring thaw. The last major flood reported was in 2010.

Critical Infrastructure

The Embassy maintains a close cooperative relationship with authorities responsible for monitoring the radiological and operational conditions at nuclear facilities.

Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia and contract disputes between Naftogaz and Gazprom have resulted in concerns about gas supply in the future.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict has also resulted in coal supply interruptions that could impact 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.

Economic Concerns

There is a lack of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection that is evident in the very weak enforcement efforts, the continued use of unlicensed (pirated) software within the government and private sectors, the widespread sale of counterfeit retail merchandise, the transshipment of counterfeit goods, the rampant internet piracy, and the overabundance of rogue music royalty collection societies (collecting royalties without distributing any of the royalties to legitimate rights holders). In 2015, the U.S. government moved Ukraine from the Special 301 “Priority Foreign Country” designation to the “Priority Watch List” in response to the reform-minded government efforts. The government has made limited progress in addressing IPR concerns and remains on the “Priority Watch List.”

Personal Identity Concerns

There is potential for violently motivated racial and biased-motivated crimes against non-Slavic and religious minorities. Victims have reported oral harassment, discrimination, and physical assaults on the streets. All foreigners – even those who are not racial minorities – should be aware of this. Slow response to hate crimes is a continuing concern, although senior government officials have publicly deplored these hate crimes.

There were a few incidents involving threats or attacks on members of Ukraine’s LGBTQI community, including an organized protest against an LGBTQI gathering in Lviv that turned violent in 2016 and consistent attempts to disrupt Pride Week activities.

Police Response

In general, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies do not meet U.S./Western European standards, and their ability to adequately investigate criminal incidents is still evolving. While significant progress has been made in the form of the Patrol Police in Kyiv and several major cities, response time remains below Western standards, and case resolution remains an ongoing problem.

Individuals are required to carry personal identification documents, and local law enforcement may stop people on the street to conduct identification checks. No probable cause is required. Therefore, the Embassy recommends that visitors carry passports.

Corruption remains a persistent concern, and there have been reports of persecution of anti-corruption activists in 2017. Law enforcement agencies have been viewed as part of the problem, but there has been some progress in reforms with the establishment of a new police structure.

Despite efforts to promote knowledge of English, police units rarely possess 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.

Crime Victim Assistance

Fire emergency: Dial 101

Police emergency: Dial 102

Ambulance/emergency medical services: Dial 103

Note: These numbers can be used in Kyiv and in major cities; however, there may not be an English-speaking operator.

The U.S. Embassy recommends that Americans report crimes to the police and to the Embassy. In the event that police do not accept a crime report, the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section’s American Citizen Services unit can potentially raise the matter with police. Reporting a crime is also advisable even if time has elapsed, 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. Consular staff can also furnish lists of lawyers who have expressed willingness to work with U.S. citizens; lawyers can file police reports and follow up accordingly on behalf of their clients.

If you are an American citizen in need of emergency assistance, please call U.S. Embassy Kyiv at +38-044-521-5566 during regular business hours or +38-044-521-5000 after hours.

Police/Security Agencies

The National Police under the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) is the civilian police agency.

The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) is the main government security agency dealing with counterintelligence issues and combating terrorism.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS) controls borders and points of entry.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities 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 that require medication should bring enough medicine since medicine may not be readily available in-country. Furthermore, narcotic pain relievers may not be imported into Ukraine even in small quantities and with a prescription. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

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, and TRICARE/SOS (for military personnel). Boris Clinic has a limited agreement with Tricare for active duty personnel only.

Insurance Guidance

We encourage Americans to purchase traveler's medical evacuation insurance before arriving and to familiarize themselves with the conditions of their existing medical coverage and medical resources in Ukraine or they should have access to substantial lines of credit to cover the cost of medical evacuation. 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.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The government has a service to control fresh foods and meats, but it is difficult to confirm its effectiveness. Wild berries, wild fowl and game, and mushrooms should be avoided if originating from areas surrounding Chornobyl, as these have been found to 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 the background radiation is 25 microrems per hour. The average and constant numbers for Kyiv are 12-14 microrems/hour. Daily readings on the background radiation are posted on the Ministry of Emergencies website.

Tap water is not potable. It is safe for bathing and cooking in large cities. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Ukraine.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Kyiv Country Council meets four times a year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Kyiv

4 Aircraft Designer Igor Sikorsky Street, Kyiv, Ukraine 04112

Вул. Авіаконструктора Ігоря Сікорського, 4, Київ, Україна 04112

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700

Embassy Contact Numbers

Country Code: 380

Kyiv City Code: 44

Telephone: (38-044) 521-5000

From another country: +38-044-521-5000

From within Ukraine: 044-521-5000

Website: https://ua.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

The Embassy strongly recommends that all Americans visiting or residing in Ukraine register with the Embassy’s American Citizen Services unit. Registration will permit the Consulate to contact American citizens quickly in the event of an in-country emergency. On-line registration is available at on the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) website.

The Ukrainian State Migration Service (SMS) advises that visitors/foreigners can remain in country permit-free for 90 days out of 180 days. Foreigners can apply for an extension. Overstay fines range from 500 to 5,000 UAH and should be managed directly with an SMS office. In addition, to avoid problems with ban on re-entry, foreigners need to pay at a local SMS office, providing their passports and a return ticket. Visitors would receive a “protocol” (receipt), and present the protocol at the airport. The process can take place at the airport but the State Border Guard Service will issue a ban on re-entry. There is a strong push by the government of Ukraine to clamp down on illegal immigration and overstays.

Additional Resources

Ukraine Country Information Sheet