Ukraine travel advice: is it safe to travel from the UK, Foreign Office advice - and the situation explained

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Non-essential travel to Ukraine is advised against across the country, but the situation is even more uncertain in some areas

In response to the mounting Russian threat to Ukraine, some British embassy staff and their dependents are being pulled out of Kyiv.

The Foreign Office confirmed the move after the United States ordered the families of all American personnel at the US Embassy to leave the country in response to the risk of an invasion.

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Russian forces have massed at the border with Ukraine and intense diplomatic activity has failed to ease tensions.

The Foreign Office said: “Some embassy staff and dependants are being withdrawn from Kyiv in response to the growing threat from Russia.

“The British Embassy remains open and will continue to carry out essential work.”

But is it safe to visit Ukraine as a tourist or for work?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is happening in Ukraine?

The UK believes there is a significant risk that Russian president Vladimir Putin will launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has accused the president of plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the Ukrainian government.

The Foreign Office took the unusual step of naming former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev as a potential Kremlin candidate to take over in Kyiv – a claim dismissed as provocative “nonsense” by Moscow.

Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen stand in a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretske village, in the Donetsk region (Photo:  ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen stand in a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretske village, in the Donetsk region (Photo:  ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen stand in a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretske village, in the Donetsk region (Photo: ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Nato has committed ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe.

Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is set to deploy F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania, Spain is sending ships and is considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, France has expressed its readiness to send troops to Romania, and the Netherlands is sending two F-35 fighter planes to Bulgaria from April.

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Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab warned on Sunday (23 January) there was a “very significant risk” of a Russian invasion of its neighbour.

“The world needs to keep its eye on this and be very clear with President Putin that it would not do this cost-free, that there would be a price,” he told the BBC.

“A price in terms of the strenuous defence that we would expect the Ukrainians to put up, but also the economic cost through sanctions, which are of course more effective if the international community speaks as one or at least with a broad consensus.”

What is the FCDO’s travel advice?

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says that although the situation throughout the majority of Ukraine remains “generally calm”, events are “fast moving”.

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“There is continuing uncertainty about Russian intentions,” it adds. “Non-essential travel is advised against. Make sure you are ready to change your plans quickly if you need to.”

The department advises that any visitors to the country “remain vigilant” by monitoring local and global media, and keeping updated with the FCDO’s travel advice.

“You should keep your departure plans under close review,” it warns. “Renewed military action anywhere in Ukraine would greatly reduce British Embassy Kyiv’s ability to provide consular support.”

Where is the worst of the conflict?

While the FCDO warns against “non-essential” travel throughout much of Ukraine, there are some areas of the country where the risks are a little more severe.

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Consular support is not available in parts of Ukraine not currently under control of the Ukrainian authorities, like Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

“The FCDO advise against all travel to Crimea,” it says, as it is not able to provide consular services to the area, which is under full operational control by Russian forces and pro-Russian groups following an illegal referendum in March 2014.

The situation in Eastern Ukraine is similarly uncertain, with the FCDO advising against all travel to areas like Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast.

“There has been a pattern of Russian military build-ups near Ukraine’s eastern border,” says the department, which describes the security situation there as “highly unstable”, with ongoing clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists.

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Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting - the UN has calculated around 13,000 deaths and approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people.

The FCDO also warns that if British nationals travel to eastern Ukraine to fight, or to assist others engaged in the conflict, their activities “may amount to offences against UK terrorism or other legislation and you could be prosecuted on your return to the UK.”

For more information on travel to Ukraine, see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s website

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