Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, has been home to protesters since early December when President Viktor Yanukovich turned down a trade deal with the European Union (EU) in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. The protests are escalating, and so is the violence, prompting a State Department travel alert to Americans who may head to the country.
The Ukrainian Security Services have announced that they may take extraordinary measures beginning the evening of February 18. U.S. citizens are urged to maintain a low profile and to remain indoors at night while clashes continue. As of February 18, the Kyiv Metro (subway) has been shut down and access into Kyiv by road has, according to credible reports, been restricted. The situation is currently very fluid and U.S. citizens in Kyiv should follow media reports closely as events develop. This Travel Alert dated February 18, 2014, replaces the Travel Alert dated January 24, 2014, and updates specific information on violent protests and transportation systems. This Travel Alert expires May 17, 2014.
The State Department told people who do travel or reside in Ukraine to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. They reminded people that the U.S. Embassy in Kiev is still open and informed them that if that changes, they will send out a new notification.
America woke up on Tuesday morning to news that five protesters had died. Now the death toll is at 18 people: 11 protesters and seven police officers. People are using social media, such as Twitter, to disseminate information.
The protesters and opposition want Yanukovich to resign. The protests grew worse in January when Parliament pushed through strict demonstration laws. After that, the prime minister and other officials resigned, but Yanukovich stayed in as president. He offered opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the prime minister post and boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko the role of deputy prime minister. Both turned him down.