The following information about escaping from Ukraine is accurate as of the time of this writing; however, due to the quickly changing nature of the situation, always consult the resources noted below for the most up to date information.
Russia has launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, already considered one of the darkest moments for Europe – if not the world – since World War II. The situation is very fluid. Ukraine is fighting back. But with airstrikes increasing and more Russian troops moving into the area, thousands are fleeing for their lives.
With the situation grim and likely to get much worse, what should you do if you have friends or family living in Ukraine? We have been flooded with questions from clients about this. Here we answer some of those questions and others:
Is escaping from Ukraine still possible for my friends and family?
Yes, but the doors are quickly closing. However, air travel into and out of Ukraine is shut down, and most other forms of transport are also closed, slow, or risky. As this is being written, many people are fleeing to Poland, which accepts Ukrainian refugees at this time.
What about taking buses, trains, or driving out of Ukraine?
Trains and buses are still operating, but as just mentioned, may be challenging to use. Check with local authorities if roads are open and safe to drive. Some people are escaping from Ukraine by driving to nearby countries.
If my friends and family are in Kyiv, what country should they try to escape to?
While many people are escaping to Poland, the nearest country to Kyiv is Belarus. However, the U.S. State Department advises not escaping to this country because of the heavy Russian military presence. But there are other, safer options. These include the following:
Romania: People can escape by land to Romania. There is no vaccination requirement at this time, but if escaping to Romania or any other country, refugees should always have their passports handy.
Hungary. People can also escape by land to Hungary. This country is trying to remain neutral in the conflict. There is not a vaccination requirement at this time.
Moldova. Some entry points, but not all, into this country are safe to cross.
If possible, check with the U.S. Embassy or local, credible authorities before traveling to these countries.
How can my friends and family remain safe if they can’t get out?
The best advice is to stay inside, especially if they are in the vicinity of military activity. Stay away from doors, windows, crowds, and demonstrations, and stay tuned to credible news sources. Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your contingency plans based on the new information. Some countries are advising their passport-holders in Ukraine to register their presence in the country and provide contact information so they can easily be contacted – especially if an opportunity for escaping from Ukraine materializes.
General Guidance: The U.S. Embassy Kyiv has provided the following guidance:
- Familiarize yourself with information on what the U.S. government can and cannot do to assist you in a crisis overseas.
- Have a contingency plan in place that does not rely on U.S. government assistance. Remember, Ukraine is in a state of war. Having a Plan B and a Plan C is always recommended.
- Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for Travel to High-Risk Areas..
- Email the Overseas Security Advisory Council for up-to-date information: OSACeurope@state.gov
Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and security-consulting firm. He served as a Military Field Intelligence Officer for the Israeli Armed Forces during the 1970s. As an intelligence specialist, Tal supervised and initiated behind-enemy-lines intelligence gathering relying on both hardware systems and personnel. Tal has also served as an anti-terrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, former President of World Association of Detectives (2000-2001) and holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com