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Safety Travel Safety: Europe: Ukraine

Ukraine: Ukraine
Capital: Kiev (Kyyiv)
Population: 48,396,470
Currency: hryvnia (UAH)
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox - Kiev Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate), Protestant, Jewish
Borders: Belarus 891 km, Hungary 103 km, Moldova 939 km, Poland 526 km, Romania (south) 169 km, Romania (west) 362 km, Russia 1,576 km, Slovakia 97 km

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Ukraine is a young nation undergoing profound political and economic change as it moves from its soviet past toward a market economy and multi-party democracy and integration into Euro-Atlantic and other international institutions. In recent years, the availability of goods and services has increased along with increased rates of growth in Ukraine's economy, and facilities for travelers have improved somewhat. Nonetheless, the availability of travel and tourist services remains uneven throughout the country, and Ukraine still lacks the abundance of many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries. Travel will not normally be as comfortable as in more highly developed countries such as those in Western Europe. Travel within Ukraine is unrestricted.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Despite the country's difficult economic situation, Ukraine has been largely free of significant civil unrest or disorders. Demonstrations occasionally occur in cities such as Kiev. While the majority of these protests are small and peaceful, it is best to avoid such gatherings.

CRIME ^
Most travelers do not encounter problems with crime while in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the country is undergoing a significant economic, political and social transformation, and income disparities have grown sharply. As a result, visitors perceived to be wealthier are targets for criminals. Americans often stand out in Ukraine, and are therefore more likely to be targeted than in Western European countries where incomes are higher and Americans may blend in better. Most street crime is relatively low level, but crimes involving small caliber firearms have been reported. Street crime ranges from wallet scams, simple pick pocketing and purse snatching, to muggings, armed robbery, or drugging unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars (where they are then robbed). Cases of assaults in apartment building corridors and stairwells, and armed break-ins have also been reported.

Credit card and ATM fraud is widespread. Ukraine operates as a cash economy, and money scams are widespread. Although credit card and ATM use among Ukrainians is increasingly common, we nevertheless strongly recommend that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from using credit cards or ATM cards.

Burglaries of apartments and vehicles represent the most significant threat to long-term residents. Although few cars are actually stolen, primarily because of increased use of alarm systems and security wheel locks, vehicular break-ins and vehicular vandalism are becoming more common.

In Ukraine there is a lack of tourist and travel services upon which American and foreign visitors can rely in the aftermath of a crime. Transferring funds from the United States, replacing stolen traveler's checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming. There is a lack of safe, low cost lodgings such as youth hostels. Public facilities in Ukraine are generally not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities.

Reports of racially-motivated incidents against non-Caucasian foreigners, including American citizens of African and Asian descent, have been registered at our Embassy. In addition to incidents of assault, persons of African or Asian heritage may be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials.

Over the past several years, the Embassy has received a number of reports of harassment and intimidation directed against foreign businesspersons and interests. While these reports have become considerably less frequent in recent years, they have not ended entirely. Reported incidents range from physical threats (possibly motivated by rival commercial interests tied to organized crime), to local government entities engaging in such practices as arbitrary termination or amendment of business licenses, dilution of corporate stock to diminish U.S. investor interest, delays of payment or delivery of goods, and arbitrary �inspections� by tax, safety or other officials that appear designed to harm the business rather than a genuine attempt at good governance.

Computer fraud is also becoming more common in Ukraine. Internet scams appear to be on the increase. The Embassy suggests refraining from wiring money unless the recipient is well-known and the purpose of business is clear. American citizens have reported transferring money to Ukraine to pay for goods purchased from residents of Ukraine via on-line auction sites, but never receiving the goods in return. The Embassy regularly receives complaints from Americans regarding scams involving marriage and dating services. Numerous Americans have lost money to agencies and individuals that claimed they could arrange for student or fianc�e visas to the U.S. Additional information is available on our web site in a document titled � Marriage Brokers � at http://usembassy.kiev.ua/amcit_marriage_brokers_eng.html.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ukrainian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ukraine are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of hospitals and clinics with some English-speaking staff. Many facilities have only limited English speakers. There are no hospitals in Ukraine that provide a level of medical care equal to that found in American hospitals, or which accept American health insurance plans for payment (see below: Medical Insurance). Some facilities are adequate for basic services. Basic medical supplies are available; however, travelers requiring prescription medicine should bring their own. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. When hospitalized, patients or their relatives or acquaintances are often expected to supply medication, bandages, etc, themselves. The Embassy recommends that ill or infirm persons not travel to Ukraine. The Embassy also recommends that travelers obtain private medical evacuation insurance prior to traveling to Ukraine.

The fastest way to secure western medical care remains medical evacuation. This is a very expensive option and may take several hours after the need for care arises. Travelers may wish to purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to travel, or have access to substantial lines of credit to cover the cost of medical evacuation.

The Consular Section has information on various air ambulance companies that perform medical evacuations to Europe or the U.S. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to Europe can cost from $25,000 to $50,000, and to the U.S. as much as $70,000 or more. More information can be found on U.S. Embassy's website in a separate document � Medical Services in Kiev � at http://usembassy.kiev.ua/amcit_medical_serv_eng.html.

Please note that while the Embassy can help American travelers and their families make contact with a medevac service, the U.S. Government cannot pay for medical evacuation. Travelers should make sure they have medical evacuation insurance, which is available from many private companies, or have funds available for evacuation, before the need arises.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. The information below concerning Ukraine is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Generally, roads in Ukraine outside major urban areas are in poor condition and poorly lit. Defensive driving is a must, since drivers often disregard traffic rules. Drivers are often poorly trained or drive without a valid driver's license. Drivers can also be very aggressive, and they normally do not respect the rights of pedestrians, even at clearly marked pedestrian crossings. Pedestrians should also be aware of cars driving or attempting to park on sidewalks. Many cars do not meet the safety standards common in America.

Cross-country travel at night and in winter can be particularly dangerous. The Embassy strongly recommends that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from driving their private vehicles after dark outside of major cities. However, major roads are drivable during daylight hours. Roadside services such as gas stations and repair facilities are becoming more common, particularly on the main national and regional overland highways and in large and mid-size cities. Nonetheless, such services are far from American standards, and travelers should plan accordingly. There have been isolated reports of carjackings of western-made or foreign-registered cars. There has been an increase in the number of documented reports of criminal acts occurring on trains.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ukraine's civil aviation authority as Category 1 � in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ukrainian air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

August 20, 2004

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