The US Embassy in Kyiv has remained in touch with US citizens who have elected to remain in Kyiv since before the launch of the February 24 invasion by Russia.

Americans travelling overseas, who have signed-up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), are routinely sent updates of security risks for whichever country to which they are travelling. According to the State Department’s website (at https://step.state.gov) STEP allows for those who have signed-up to receive updates to make informed decisions about their travel plans; helps the Embassy remain in touch in case of “natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency”; and helps family and friends get in touch with the traveller in case of an emergency.

The alert that was sent out on July 14, which was subsequently widely shared in Ukrainian press and social media, rumors spread that the notification indicated that the Americans were telling their citizens to flee because the situation in Ukraine had dramatically worsened.

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However, a review of earlier announcements finds that the US has been recommending that its citizens leave Ukraine since February and that this alert is similar to earlier ones.

The Embassy, which was asked for comment by the Kyiv Post, did not immediately respond, however an automated email reply indicated that:

The State Department has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory for Ukraine telling U.S. citizens not travel to Ukraine due to Russian military invasion and COVID-19. U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options. U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials.

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The full announcement released on July 14 reads, in full:

Location: Ukraine

Event:  The security situation throughout Ukraine continues to be violent and unpredictable due to ongoing military attacks by Russia, with active fighting in country and uncertain safety conditions.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens not to enter Ukraine and those in Ukraine to depart immediately using privately available ground transportation options if it is safe to do so.  Avoid large gatherings and organized events as they may serve as Russian military targets anywhere in Ukraine, including its western regions.

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If you hear a loud explosion or if sirens are activated, immediately seek cover. If in a home or a building, go to the lowest level of the structure with the fewest exterior walls, windows, and openings; close any doors and sit near an interior wall, away from any windows or openings.

If you are outdoors, immediately seek cover in a hardened structure; if that is not possible, lie down and cover your head with your hands.

Be aware that even if the incoming missile or drone is intercepted, falling debris represent a significant risk.

After the attack, stay away from any debris, and monitor major news outlets for official guidance.

The security situation throughout Ukraine is highly volatile, and conditions may deteriorate without warning.  U.S. citizens should remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.  Know the location of your closest shelter or protected space.  In the event of mortar and/or rocket fire, follow instructions from local authorities and seek shelter immediately.  If you feel your current location is no longer safe, you should carefully assess the potential risks involved in moving to a different location.

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Actions to Take:

Visit the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv’s webpage to view the most recent safety and security alerts for U.S. citizens.

Ensure travel documents are valid and easily accessible.

Review your personal security plans and always have a contingency plan in place that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.

Enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency.

Regularly monitor the State Department’s website for current Travel Advisories. Read the Country Specific Information for Ukraine. For additional information, refer to the “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

Please see information on What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.

For Assistance:

Call +1 (888) 407-4747 (in the United States) or +1 (202) 501-4444 (from overseas); or Email [email protected].

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