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Advisory on Ukraine as new Cold War threatens Europe

March 3, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has warned Australian travellers not to venture into the Crimea region of the Ukraine. The crisis there is escalating along Cold War lines, with Russia on one side and the US and EU on the other.

“Due to the volatile political situation in the Crimean peninsula and the serious risk of further escalation with potential for violence, we have increased the level of our advice for Crimea to do not travel,” DFAT stated at the weekend.

“We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Kyiv [Kiev, the Ukrainian capital] due to ongoing political tensions.  We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution elsewhere in Ukraine due to the possibility of demonstrations and protests. Australians should avoid all demonstrations or large public gatherings as even peaceful protests may turn violent.”

The advisory comes as Ukraine’s interim government accuses Russia of staging an armed invasion in southeastern Crimea. Commandos not wearing insignia but believed to be Russian have seized airports and government buildings.

While the West is unwilling to fight militarily with Russia over Ukraine (wishing to avoid World War 3) mistakes are possible and in any case the crisis is likely to have the following travel-related effects:

  • The price of oil may spike — Russia supplies much oil and natural gas to Europe. If oil prices rocket, airfare surcharges follow.
  • The value of the Australian dollar will drop as jittery investors pull money out of “second-tier currencies”. That is already happening.
  • Leisure travel to Eastern Europe, and potentially to Western Europe, could fall. Wars and rumours of wars are bad for tourism.

In Ukraine meanwhile, two Crimean airports – the main international airport of Simferapol and a military airfield in Sevastopol – have been taken over by what Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claims to be members of the Russian Federation fleet. Sevastopol is the naval base of the Russian Black Sea fleet but the fleet denies its personnel are involved.

Russian troops are massing near the Ukrainian border as part of planned military exercises that the US has warned could “lead to miscalculation”.

In an alarming development yesterday, Russia’s parliament authorised President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russian troops in Ukraine. An invasion could be imminent. The Ukrainian government has put its army on full combat alert, warning that any invasion will mean war. Ukraine has borders with four members of the European Union: Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.

With the spectre of the Cold War in the background and growing fears of a hot war, or skirmish, Russian migration authorities report a huge jump in applications by Ukrainians for asylum in Russia, with some 143,000 people filing documents in just two weeks, Russian news site RT reported.

Of 45 million people living in Ukraine, some 7.6 million are ethnic Russians, according to a 2013 census. They are likely to be the ones seeking asylum.

Written by Peter Needham

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