USG to Allow Certain Persons From Ukraine to Travel to US Without Pre-Departure COVID-19 Tests

On February 14, the United States announced the temporary relocation of US Embassy operations from Kyiv to Lviv. (U.S. Shuts Down Embassy Kyiv, “Temporarily Relocating” Operations to Lviv). 
According to a CDC announcement, on February 15, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security determined that it is in the national interest to permit the entry of noncitizen nonimmigrants who (1) are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; (2) were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022; and (3) possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States. Covered persons will not be required to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding their flights to the United States. All travelers are still required to “properly wear well-fitting masks during the flight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that, based on a request from the U.S. Department of State and consistent with the determination made by the Secretary of Homeland Security, it will exercise its enforcement discretion regarding certain aspects of its “Amended Order: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Result or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Airline Passengers Arriving into the United States,” and its Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic pdf icon[PDF – 52 pages],” effective immediately. This exercise of enforcement discretion is limited to the following groups of individuals, to the extent they were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022: U.S. citizens; lawful permanent residents; noncitizens in possession of a valid U.S. immigrant visa; as well as noncitizen nonimmigrants who are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States (collectively, “covered persons”). This exercise of enforcement discretion will enter into effect immediately and expire on March 1, 2022, at 2359 ET, subject to any further extensions.

Pursuant to this exercise of enforcement discretion, covered persons will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding a flight to the United States or to complete the attestation at Section 1 of the Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America pdf icon[PDF – 7 pages] form.

CDC requests that all air carriers cooperate in this exercise of enforcement discretion. Noncitizen nonimmigrants must continue to complete Section 2 of the Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America pdf icon[PDF – 7 pages] form attesting to either being fully vaccinated and providing proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or, if traveling pursuant to an exception, including a national interest exception, that they have made arrangements to receive a COVID-19 test within three to five days of arrival in the United States, to self-quarantine for seven days, to self-isolate in the event of a positive COVID-19 test or the development of COVID-19 symptoms, and to become fully vaccinated for COVID-19 within 60 days of arrival in the United States if intending to stay in the United States for more than 60 days.

All travelers are also required to properly wear a well-fitting mask to keep the nose and mouth covered during the flight, including on public transportation and in airports and other transportation hubs. Travelers may further be subject to additional public health measures as may be required by State and local health authorities at their arrival location in the United States.

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U.S. Shuts Down Embassy Kyiv, “Temporarily Relocating” Operations to Lviv

Secretary of State Blinken on US Embassy Kyiv Operations /February 14, 2022 via state.gov:

“I have no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans around the world, and that, of course, includes our colleagues serving at our posts overseas. My team and I constantly review the security situation to determine when prudence dictates a change in posture. With that in mind, we are in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations in Ukraine from our Embassy in Kyiv to Lviv due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces. The Embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine.  We are also continuing our intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis.

These prudent precautions in no way undermine our support for or our commitment to Ukraine. Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We also continue our sincere efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, and we remain engaged with the Russian government following President Biden’s call with President Putin and my discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov. The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith. We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.

In the meantime, I have ordered these measures for one reason — the safety of our staff — and we strongly urge any remaining U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately. U.S. citizens seeking emergency assistance in Ukraine should complete this online form, and the State Department will follow-up, as appropriate.”

WSJ reports that the State Department “ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system” citing  U.S. officials familiar with the matter and internal communications reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.  “Those moves render the Kyiv embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility.”
Remember that photo we posted about the closure of US Embassy Tripoli as they prepared to evacuate post in 2011? (see Photo of the Day: Sledgehammer Workout, No Joke). That’s that.
The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

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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A New Trend? Posts’ Requests to @StateDept For Authorized Departures Go Public

 

 

In a span of a couple of weeks, we’ve seen two reports of diplomatic posts requesting the State Department to go on evacuation status leaked to the press. This has occasionally happened in the past, of course, but only in isolated cases.  The most notable happened at some posts in one region in March 2020 where the missions’ Emergency Action Committees (EAC) recommended an “ordered departure” for their posts and a top bureau official reportedly talked the ambassadors out of requesting it.
Were these requests from Kyiv and Beijing leaked because the EACs/ACOMs were dissuaded from making formal requests in the first place, which then avoided a formal response from the bureaus/DOS, or were these leaked to ensure that the requests are now public record, ramping up the pressure on State to agree to the requests? The EACs typically make recommendations in these cases and the departures are then requested by the chief of mission (COM). Final approval is by the Under Secretary for Management (M).
In the case of US Embassy Kyiv, the request made the news on January 21, and the State Department made it official on January 23. In Mission China’s case, the request made the news on January 26. As of this writing, the China travel advisory remains at Level 3, and no authorized departure has been announced as of this writing. The new US Ambassador to China was sworn-in on January 27.

Related posts:

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

COVID-19 Pandemic Howler: “No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF” March 20, 2020

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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EUR/DAS George Kent Returns to Ukraine as Chargé d’Affaires

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Grazie — DS

 

We could not locate the announcement but EUR DAS (and Trump Impeachment witness) George Kent is back in Ukraine as Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Kyiv.  Kent has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau overseeing policy towards Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan since September 2018. He was also Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv from 2015-18.
As of July 12, he is back in Ukraine as CDA per tweet from US Embassy Kyiv. Until recently, Embassy Kyiv’s Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. was Kristina A. Kvien. She is still listed as CDA on embassy’s website as of this writing. This is a tad confusing, unconfuse us, please.
Embassy Kyiv has a new DCM who previously served at post as political counselor.  Alan Purcell became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in May 2021. A career Foreign Service Officer, he served most recently as Acting Consul General in Hamilton, Bermuda, from January to May 2021. He was acting DAS at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor prior to his stint in Bermuda.

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Ukraine: US Embassy Kyiv Spouse Micala Siler Killed While Jogging

Obituary: Micala “Mikey” Christie-Hicks Siler (December 19, 1978 – September 30, 2020)

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Retires From the Foreign Service After 34 Years of Service

Updated: 3:54 pm PST with correction on Amb. Yovanovitch’s promotion to Career Minister in 2016.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was one of the top witnesses in the Trump Impeachment hearings reportedly retired from the State Department.  Ambassador Yovanovitch served 34 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush.
Based on her online bio, Ambassador Yovanovitch is 61 years old, which is four years short of the mandatory retirement in the U.S. Foreign Service. (Foreign Service employees are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service).
Ambassador Yovanovitch was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service Class of Minister-Counselor in 2007. She was ranked Minister-Counselor during her last two appointments as Ambassador to Armenia in 2008 and as Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. The maximum time-in-class (TIC) limits for Minister-Counselor is “14 years combined TIC with no more than seven years in the class of Counselor.” We don’t have public details beyond what is on congress.gov and the FAM, but it looks like she has not reach her maximum TIC in 2020. It is also likely that she was eligible for promotion to Career Minister prior to her retirement. Correction: Amb. Yovanovitch was promoted to Career Minister in 2016 (thanks B!)
So why would she retire? Perhaps she got exhausted by all the controversy. Or perhaps she simply realized that, given her rank, she could not find a warm home in Pompeo’s State Department nor is she going to get another presidential appointment under this Administration.  Having been yanked out of one assignment without an onward assignment, with a huge WH target on her back, we’ve always suspected that she would not be able to return to Foggy Bottom or get another overseas assignment.
Per 3 FAM 6215 career members of the Foreign Service who have completed Presidential assignments under section 302(b) of the Foreign Service Act, and who have not been reassigned within 90 days after the termination of such assignment, plus any period of authorized leave, shall be retired as provided in section 813 of the Act. 
Ambassador Yovanovitch was detailed to a university for a year. As a career member of the Foreign Service,  she was recalled from an assignment but wasn’t fired after her posting at the US Embassy in Kyiv. In reality, her career ended in Kyiv. Without that university assignment, it’s likely that she would have been subjected to the 90-day rule and be forced into mandatory retirement last summer.
In any case, that university assignment would have ran out this spring but in May 2019, it allowed the State Department to pretend that this was a normal job rotation. For the State Department, it also avoided one spectacle: given that the recall quickly became very high profile and political, they would have had to explain her mandatory retirement in Summer 2019 following the conclusion of her presidential appointment without an onward assignment.
Her case underscores some realities of the Foreign Service that folks will continue to wrestle with for a long time. How breathtakingly easy it was for motivated bad actors to whisper in powerful, receptive ears and ruin a 34-year career. You may have thought that Administration officials could not possibly have believed the whispers, that over three decades of dedicated service meant something, but believed them they did. Since this happened to her, how easily could it happen to anyone, at any post, at any given country around the world? Then to realize how thin the protection afforded career employees, and how easily the system adapts to the political demands of the day.
Note that in the Foreign Service, retirements may be either voluntary or involuntary. According to State, involuntary retirements include those due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 (except DS special agents where the mandatory retirement age is 57), which cannot be waived unless an employee is serving in a Presidential appointment, or if the Director General of the Foreign Service determines that the employee’s retention in active duty is in the “public interest”; and those who trigger the “up-or-out” rules in the FS personnel system (e.g., restrictions in the number of years FS employees can remain in one class or below the Senior Foreign Service threshold).
Voluntary non-retirements include resignations, transfers, and deaths. Involuntary non-retirements consist of terminations, as well as “selection out” of tenured employees and non-tenured decisions for entry level FS employees.
Between FY 2018 and FY 2022, the Department projected that close to 5,900 career CS and FS employees will leave the Department due to various types of attrition.  Most FS attrition reportedly is due to retirements. In FY 2017, 70 percent of all separations from the FS were retirements. For the FY 2018 to FY 2022 period, the attrition mix is expected to be 80 percent retirements and 20 percent non-retirements.

 

Related posts:

 

 

Amb. Bill Taylor: Yes, Secretary Pompeo, Americans Should Care About Ukraine

 

 

HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch