Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told German citizens to leave south and east Ukraine and discouraged further travel to the country. He claimed the country is on the brink of war, which is the first time a western country described the situation in Ukraine in that context.
His ministry issued new travel advice for Ukraine, urging all German citizens to “leave” the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. “Checkpoints and roadblocks were erected in these regions, which are operated by irregular armed forces,” reads the advice. “In the light of recent developments, it must be assumed that the media will run special risk of being detained or arrested by separatist forces.”
On May 2, over 40 people were killed when pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russians clashed in Odessa. It was the second-deadliest day since the Euromaidan protests started in November. This was the main reason Steinmeier issued the warning:
“The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation,” he said.
Already, the situation had escalated in a way “that a short time ago we would not have considered possible,” added Mr Steinmeier.
However, there have been Ukrainian officials who already admitted the country is at war. Vasyl Krutov, head of Ukraine’s anti-terrorist center, admitted this after a weekend of bloodshed, stating, “There is gunfire and clashes around Kramatorsk. … What we are facing in the Donetsk region and in the eastern regions is not just some kind of short-lived uprising, it is in fact a war.”
The worst part is Donetsk Oblast, especially the cities of Sloviansk and Donetsk. On Tuesday morning, Donetsk airport closed for the day and cancelled all international flights until further notice, but allowed one flight to Kiev. The flag for the Donetsk People’s Republic flies outside the airport. There are still 24 people being held in Donetsk Oblast, many of whom are journalists. VICE News, whose very own Simon Ostrovsky was held for four days, published a list of the people being held by pro-Russians. On April 27, Germany told German journalists not to travel to east Ukraine.
Eight members of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were kidnapped in Sloviansk on April 26. The pro-Russian forces paraded the group the following day in front of the media, where leader Colonel Axel Schneider said they were “comfortable” but just wanted to go home. The kidnappers finally released them on May 3.