State Department Issues Travel Warning to East Ukraine, Crimea

State Department Issues Travel Warning to East Ukraine, Crimea

The US State Department issued a travel warning to Americans who might travel to Crimea or east Ukraine. Both areas have seen major unrest and could be dangerous since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Pro-Russians in the east have been protesting to join Russia as well.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Ukraine to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety, particularly in the Crimean Peninsula and the eastern regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv. While the transition to a new government has been largely peaceful in most parts of Ukraine, the potential for violence between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian groups still exists.

Additionally, groups advocating closer ties to Russia have taken on a more strident anti-American tone, especially in Crimea, where some U.S. citizens have reported being detained and questioned by armed men. U.S. citizens in areas where there are pro-Russian demonstrations should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings.

On March 13, pro-Ukrainians were at a peaceful rally at Lenin Square in Donetsk. Pro-Russians attacked them and violence broke out. Two people were killed and eleven sent to the hospital. Then pro-Russians demonstrated on March 15 and 16, took over government buildings, and vandalized the area.

Violence escalated in Kharkiv on March 14 when pro-Russians and members of the Right Sector party clashed at Lenin Square. Both sides claim the other side shot first, but in the end two pro-Russia activists were dead.

On Sunday, pro-Russians in Kharkiv staged a protest to join Russia. Mike Giglio from Buzzfeed said pro-Ukrainians planned their own protest but decided not to hold it. He said it is common for pro-Ukrainians to do this in the east.