U.S. Embassy Kyiv Suspends Consular Services, Maintains Consular Presence in Lviv

 

On February 12, the State Department ordered the mandatory evacuation of “most U.S. direct hire employees from the US Embassy in Kyiv. Also on February 12, US Embassy Kyiv announced that U.S. citizens may enter Poland through the land border with Ukraine:

“Poland has indicated to the U.S. government that U.S. citizens may now enter Poland through the land border with Ukraine.  No advanced approval is required.  We encourage those traveling into Poland by land from Ukraine to cross at the Korczowa-Krakovets or Medyka-Shehyni border crossings.  U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport and proof of COVID-19 vaccination.  Travelers are also encouraged to present a negative test result from a PCR or antigen COVID-19 test, which will facilitate entry into Poland.”

On February 13, the State Department suspended consular services in Kyiv. The Level 4/Do Not Travel advisory for Ukraine notes that the Embassy Kyiv “will maintain a small consular presence in Lviv, Ukraine to handle emergencies” but no passport, visa or routine services will be provided.

Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19; those in Ukraine should depart immediately via commercial or private means. If remaining in Ukraine, exercise increased caution due to crime, civil unrest, and potential combat operations should Russia take military action. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

On February 12, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of most U.S. direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine, and those in Ukraine should depart immediately using commercial or other privately available transportation options. The Department previously authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees and ordered the departure of eligible family members on January 23, 2022.

As of Sunday, February 13, 2022, the Department of State will suspend consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The Embassy will maintain a small consular presence in Lviv, Ukraine to handle emergencies, but will not be able to provide passport, visa or routine consular services.  U.S. citizens may seek these services at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries. U.S. citizens seeking emergency assistance in Ukraine should complete this online form and the State Department will respond.

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US Embassy Minsk Now on Ordered Departure For USG Family Members

 

On January 31, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel advisory for Belarus. It also announced the “ordered departure” of family members of USG employees from Belarus. Ordered departure is a mandatory evacuation order. Excerpt below:

Do not Travel to Belarus due to the arbitrary enforcement of laws, the risk of detention, and unusual and concerning Russian military buildup along Belarus’ border with Ukraine. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19 and related entry restrictions.

On January 31, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees.

Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region. On January 23, 2022, the Department of State also authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. Potential harassment targeted specifically at foreigners is also possible.  Given the heightened volatility of the situation, U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling to Belarus.

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Belarus is already severely limited  due to Belarusian government limitations on U.S. Embassy staffing.

Read the full announcement here.
In June 2021, the Belarus Foreign Ministry summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures included the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for USAID.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020.  It April 2021, Ambassador Fischer was reported to temporarily reside in Lithuania as she was not granted a visa to travel to Minsk. Her official bio at US Embassy Minsk says she was refused a visa by the Belarus authorities, and she relocated to Lithuania in October 2021. She currently holds the title of U.S. Special Envoy for Belarus, a position with ambassadorial rank.

Related posts:

US Embassy Kyiv Now on Evacuation Status: Voluntary For USG Staff, Mandatory For Family Members

 

On Saturday, January 22, CNN reported that US Embassy Kyiv requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff  and their families, citing “multiple sources familiar with the matter.” Note that “non-emergency” staff is the preferred term, actually.
CNN also reported in early December that the US was working on contingency planning to evacuate Americans from Ukraine, as Russia has continued to mass troops near the border and spark fears of a renewed invasion.
A side note here, this contingency planning is not unique to Ukraine, of course. See here:

Every Foreign Service post is required to have an operative Emergency Action Plan (EAP) with procedures in place to respond to emergencies such as natural disaster, civil unrest, a pandemic or mass casualties. The post EAP is a living document, updated on a continuous basis, and comprehensively reviewed once a year. Diplomatic missions are also required to run mock emergency training drills (usually, an intense two day session every two years) to test their capabilities and the relevance of their EAPs.

On Sunday, January 23, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Ukraine “due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19.”
The Travel Advisory also announced that the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.
Additionally, the advisory urged U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
The State Department has called the developments in Ukraine a crisis and has set up phone lines dedicated to Ukraine-related calls:”
For Ukraine related calls,  please dial 1-833-741-2777 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-606-260-4379 (overseas).
All other calls,  please dial 1-888-407-4747 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas).
On Monday, January 24, the US Embassy Kyiv issued a statement announcing the Authorized Departure of U.S. Government Employees and Ordered Departure for Eligible Family Members.
On January 24, the U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of U.S. government employees and ordered the departure of family members (“ordered departure”) of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, effective immediately.
Authorized departure gives these employees the option to depart if they wish; their departure is not required. Ordered departure for family members requires that family members leave the country. The U.S. Embassy’s departure status will be reviewed in no later than 30 days.
The Department of State made the decision to authorize departure from Mission Ukraine out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine. We have been in consultation with the Ukrainian government about this step and are coordinating with Allied and partner embassies in Kyiv as they determine their posture.
Additionally, the State Department has elevated our previous Travel Advisory for Ukraine to Level Four – Do Not Travel due to the increased threats of significant Russian military action against Ukraine. The Travel Advisory was already at Level Four – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19.
[…]
With respect to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, our primary role is to keep the U.S. citizen community informed of safety and security developments, which could include information on commercial travel options.
[…]
Our Embassy in Kyiv is prepared to meet an immediate uptick in demand for consular services. Over the last several months, the Embassy has prioritized the processing of U.S. passports and immigrant visas, including adoption cases. As always, we will prioritize support for U.S. citizens in emergency situations and are working to ensure our continued capacity to do so.
Read in full here.
No nominee has been announced for the US Ambassadorship in Kyiv as of this writing.  The most recent Senate confirmed ambassador was Marie Yovanovitch who was recalled in May 20, 2019 after a vicious smear campaign by Trump allies.
Embassy Kyiv is currently headed by Kristina Kvien as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.. She was previously appointed CDA from May-June 2019. CDA Kvien’s deputy is Alan Purcell who became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in May 2021. He previously served in Ukraine as Political Counselor.

 

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US Embassy Ethiopia Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency USG Staff and Family Members

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa went on “authorized departure” on November 3. Two days later, the embassy went on mandatory evacuation for non-emergency personnel and family members.  (US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac). The State Department has now urged U.S. citizens in the country to depart while commercial air is available as well as announced that the embassy is “unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

Event: On November 5, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

The Department of State urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Although seats on commercial flights currently remain available, we cannot predict when demand will exceed capacity.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe due to the ongoing armed conflict. Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

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US Embassy Kabul Now on Ordered Departure for a “Relatively Small Number” of USG Employees

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog and your dedicated blogger going. So here we are on Week #7 of our eight-week annual fundraising. Our previous funding ran out in August 2020. We recognize that blogging life has no certainty, and this year is no exception.  If you care what we do here, please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27.  We could use your help. Grazie!  Merci! Gracias!

On April 27, US Embassy Kabul issued a Security Alert informing U.S. citizens in Afghanistan that the State Department has ordered the departure of USG employees from the capital city:

On April 27, 2021, the Department of State ordered the departure from U.S. Embassy Kabul of U.S. government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere due to increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul. The Consular Section in U.S. Embassy Kabul will remain open for limited consular services to U.S. citizens and for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa processing.

The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that the Travel Advisory for Afghanistan remains Level 4-Do Not Travel due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and COVID-19. Commercial flight options from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) remain available and the U.S. Embassy strongly suggests that U.S. citizens make plans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited. 

The State Department has also issued a Level4: Do Not Travel advisory for Afghanistan due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. U.S. citizens wishing to depart Afghanistan are urged to “leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.”
CDA Ross Wilson tweeted that the mandatory evacuation affects a “relatively small number of employees” at post. We’d like to know how many employees are actually affected by this evacuation order.

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U.S. Embassy Chad Now on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency USG Employees and Family Members

We are starting Week #6 of our eight-week annual fundraising. Our previous funding ran out in August 2020.  If you think what we do here is useful, we could use your help. Please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

On April 16, the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad issued a Security Alert notifying U.S. citizens of  “continuing reports of the presence of armed non-governmental groups in the North of Chad.” The Alert notes that U.S. Government employees have been temporarily restricted from traveling outside the city of N’Djamena.
On April 17, the U.S. Embassy N’Djamena, Chad issued another Security Alert  noting that the previously reported armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N’Djamena.  “Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena, there is the possibility for violence in the city.”
Also on April 17, Embassy Chad announced the ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees from U.S. Embassy N’Djamena due to civil unrest and armed violence:

Armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N’Djamena. Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena, and the possibility for violence in the city, non-essential U.S. Government employees have been ordered to leave Chad by commercial airline. U.S. citizens in Chad wishing to depart should take advantage of commercial flights.

The government of Chad may impose travel restrictions without notice, which may affect travel plans. The government of Chad may block communications channels, including telephone service, social media, and internet.

The U.S. Government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Chad as U.S. Government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside of the capital, including the Lake Chad Basin.

On April 17, the State Department also issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel to Chad Advisory “due to civil unrest and armed violence. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and minefields.”
US Embassy Chad currently does not have a Senate-confirmed ambassador. Steven Christopher Koutsis a career member of the Senior Foreign Service was nominated in 2019 to be U.S. Ambassador to Chad. It was not acted by the U.S. Senate and the nomination was returned to the President on January 3, 2021.
Ambassador David Gilmour has been Charge d’Affaires, a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena since December 2020.  He previously served as United States Ambassador to Togo from 2015 to 2019.  Also in December 2020, Seth Vaughn assumed the position of Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Chad.  He arrived in N’Djamena in October 2020 as the Political and Economic Section Chief.

CIA Map

Related posts:
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US Embassy Burma Now on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members

 

On March 30, the State Department issued a Do Not Travel Level 4 Travel Advisory for Burma. It also announced the mandatory departure of non-emergency USG employees and family members:

Do not travel to Burma due to COVID-19 as well as areas of civil unrest and armed violence.

On February 14, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members. On March 30, the Department updated that status to ordered departure.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Burma due to COVID-19.  

The Burmese military has detained and deposed elected government officials. Protests and demonstrations against military rule have occurred and are expected to continue.

In addition to nation-wide protests and demonstrations, the following areas of Burma are subject to heightened civil unrest or armed violence:

      • Matupi township in Chin State
      • Bhamo and Mogaung townships in Kachin State     
      • Hopang, Hseni, Hsipaw, Mongkaung, Namhsan, Namtu, and Nanhkan townships in Shan State
      • Shadaw township in Kayah State
      • Paletwa township in Chin State
      • Hpakan, Mansi, Momauk, Sumprabum, Tanai, and Waingmaw townships in Kachin State
      • Hpapun township in Kayin State Konkyan, Kutkai, Kyaukme, Laukkaing, Matman, Mongmao, Muse, Namphan, Pangsang, and Pangwaun townships in Shan State       

The following areas of Burma are especially subject to civil unrest and armed violence due to fighting between the Burmese military and various ethnic armed groups and militia forces.

      • Northern Shan State
      • Parts of Kachin, Rakhine, and Chin States
      • The Naga Self-Administered Zone in northern Sagaing Region

Violence-affected areas, particularly Northern Shan State and parts of Kachin, Rakhine, and Chin States are subject to land mines and unexploded ordinance. Land mines and unexploded ordnance have injured foreign tourists in conflict-affected areas, and the locations of the mines and ordinance are often not marked or otherwise identifiable.

Read the Burma (Myanmar) country information page.

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Surviving the Outbreak, Reflections on ConGen Wuhan’s Evacuation and Life in Quarantine (Via @StateMag)

 

Featured in the  April 2020 issue of State Magazine (published by the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources) is an article by Russell J. Westergard, the deputy consular chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan, China.
Surviving the Outbreak, Reflections on ConGen Wuhan’s evacuation and life in quarantine

By mid-October 2019, the dedicated team at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan knew that the city had been struck by what was thought to be an unusually vicious flu season. The disease worsened in November. When city officials began to close public schools in mid-December to control the spread of the disease, the team passed the word to Embassy Beijing and continued monitoring. The possibility of a new viral outbreak was always on the consulate’s radar. Still, the working assumption in every scenario had always been that, as in past outbreaks like H1N1 (known as swine flu), it would appear in rural areas first and then spread to major urban centers across China. 

When the Chinese government announced on December 29th that the new and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) had been identified and traced to a live animal market near the U.S. consulate, it caught the team’s attention. Four hectic weeks later, ConGen Wuhan closed under ordered departure with the consulate team pulling off what some people involved have since described as a minor miracle. Consulate staff found themselves at the airport of a paralyzed city preparing to evacuate family members and other U.S. citizens from what would turn out to be ground zero of a deadly global pandemic.

Fast forward to the second week in February. As the ConGen Wuhan team, family members, and the rest of the 195 passengers on board that first flight from Wuhan concluded their 14-day quarantine at the March Air Reserve Base (ARB) in Southern California, the joy and a collective sigh of relief were audible.

Read in full here.

 

Foreign Service Posts Evacuation Tracker: Authorized and Ordered Departures, Post Closures (as of 4/15/20)

Updated/1:35 pm PDT

Authorized departure is an evacuation procedure, short of ordered departure, by which post employees and/or eligible family members are permitted to leave post in advance of normal rotation when U.S. national interests or imminent threat to life requires it. Authorized departure is voluntary, requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M). The incumbent to this office is Brian Bulatao.
Ordered departure is an evacuation procedure by which the number of U.S. government employees, eligible family members, or both, at a Foreign Service post is reduced. Ordered departure is mandatory and may be initiated by the chief of mission or the Secretary of State
Posts with very few exceptions, report to their regional or geographic bureaus headed respectively by an Assistant Secretary, a Senate confirmed position. Four of the seven regional bureaus at State are headed by officials in their acting capacity (EUR, SCA, WHA, IO).  
We’ve heard from one post in Africa where COM was apparently told by a senior State Department official that non-emergency personnel should leave with the authorized departure flight or be involuntarily curtailed from post.
Can you still  call a voluntary evacuation voluntary if non-emergency personnel are under threat of curtailments if they don’t go? Is this unique to this one post or is the arm twisting more widespread within AF posts or other bureaus.
Another post in Africa told us that its COM has raised the possibility of involuntary curtailment if folks don’t want to depart on AD but that this was COM’s idea not Washington’s. One source explained that  from a post perspective, you do not want to go on OD because  “you lose control.”  This is probably a limited perspective based on the circumstances of specific posts. Or is it?
What about from the mothership’s perspective? To OD post or not to OD? Why, or why not?
We were told that the “challenge” with “ordered departures” is that Washington is “involved in micromanaging” the termination of the OD but also with the staffing/movement of personnel. Every time post permits anyone to return to post for any reason, the mothership has to review it. Our source told us that the amount of time to review every tweak and revision of staffing would probably be considerable even if just half the posts worldwide are on OD.
We note that per 3 FAM 3774 “official travel to a post or country where an authorized or ordered departure is in effect is prohibited without the formal approval of the Under Secretary for Management (M) following approval of a post policy that clearly describes appropriate restrictions and limits exceptions, in accordance with the procedures described under Waivers of Travel Prohibitions (3 FAM 3776).” Excerpt:

b. In limited circumstances, M may delegate to the COM the authority to approve travel to and from a post under authorized departure (including travel related to rest and recuperation (R&R), home leave, annual leave, etc.) for permanently assigned employees, family members, and MOHs who do not elect authorized departure status.  M also may delegate to the COM, in limited circumstances, the authority to approve travel to post for employees who were away from post when ordered departure was approved.

c.  In situations in which the Under Secretary for Management (M) has not delegated authority to the COM, waiver requests will be forwarded to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial.  If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M.  To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel.  Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date.

d. For posts where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations: Requests for a waiver of the prohibition on official and personal travel to a post or country where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations must be approved by the Under Secretary for Management, who may waive the prohibition in unusual or compelling circumstances.  The request must be made initially to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial.  If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M.  To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel.  Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date.  Approvals for such travel can be revoked at any time by M and M can impose conditions on the traveler’s length of stay, whereabouts, and/or activities in country.  The traveler must explain in detail where he/she will reside during his/her stay; unless approved by the Under Secretary for Management, no employee, family member, or member of household may reside in State Department leased or owned facilities while operations are suspended.

Anyhow, if you have further thoughts on this, drop us a line. Below is a revised evacuation tracker, no additional AD/OD posts since March 28 but we’ve now added the two post closures, the Consulates General in Wuhan and Vladivostok. Note updated date of post closure for Wuhan.  We could not locate an announcement of post closure except as part of an update on the China Travel Advisory dated February 19, which may not be the actual date when USCG Wuhan was officially closed.
Also, please note that the term “non-essential” personnel has been generally replaced with the term “non-emergency” personnel. However, we still occasionally see this term used in official releases from overseas posts. Also as late as 2018, the Foreign Affairs Manual in its danger pay section still makes references to “non-essential” personnel.

Post of the Month: In a Time of Pandemic, a U.S. Embassy Launches a Witch Hunt

“Your previous article has really stirred things up …. a lot of retaliation against who people think might have written you…which is now a large group of suspects…”

Related posts:

Is @StateDept Actively Discouraging US Embassies From Requesting Mandatory Evacuations For Staff? #CentralAsia? #Worldwide? March 23, 2020