During the pandemic-era, it's common to hear of countries banning travel to and from certain nations. However, a recent destination has made its way onto many red lists, and the reason has nothing to do with Covid-19.
Why are countries advising travellers against visiting Ukraine?
Countries like the UK, US, Australia, France, Norway and Canada have advised against all non-essential travel to Ukraine due to Russian threats and military build-ups.
New Zealand government has similarly warned those in Ukraine for a non-essential reason to "consider leaving" if it is safe to do so.
"New Zealanders whose presence in Ukraine is not essential should consider leaving by commercial means if it is safe to do so. New Zealand's ability to provide consular assistance to New Zealanders in Ukraine is very limited," read a recent warning from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It is reported that 13 New Zealanders are currently in Ukraine.
Those determined to stay have been told to "exercise vigilance", be prepared for plans to change quickly and register their contact details on SafeTravel.
Why is there a risk of armed conflict?
The armed conflict referred to is between Ukraine and Russia; a complex dispute arguably began in 1991 and includes Russia notorious takeover of Crimea in 2014.
Like most disputes, this is a complex one. To put it as simply as possible, after being under the influence of Russia for most of the 21st century as a soviet state, Ukraine has made moves to become more independent and foster relations with the European Union.
In response, Russia has openly used military power to prevent the shift in allegiance. Most recently, their efforts took a worrying turn in March 2021, when Russia began assembling military build-ups near Ukraine's eastern border and Crimea.
Despite denying any planned invasion, Russia has gathered an estimated 100,000 troops at the border and it would not be the first time they illegally seize Ukrainian territory.
Since November 2021, media coverage of Russia and Ukraine's tension has significantly increased.
Why are governments advising against travel?
Currently, armed conflict is occurring in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, even during specified ceasefire periods, resulting in a significant number of deaths, injuries, kidnappings and other violent incidents.
The situation in Kyiv and areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk has been described as "generally calm" by the New Zealand and UK governments, it's acknowledged that things are moving fast and can turn violent with little warning.
This combination of civil unrest, planned terrorist attacks and violent crime has resulted in several countries advising against travel to Ukraine.
What does a Do Not Travel advisory mean?
In New Zealand, countries that have a 'do not travel' advisory, are often areas that pose a threat to ones' life such as conflict, warfare or ongoing violent civil unrest.
Consular assistance is usually limited as a result and the government could not assist you if you were detained, injured or prevented from leaving the country.
The government will not facilitate travel to these countries and you are not to expect help to return.
More importantly, Kiwis will be hard-pressed to find an insurance company willing to provide them with cover. Due to the extremely high risk posed by travelling to these areas, most insurance policies contain a disclaimer that relieves them of covering costs related to 'do not travel' destinations.
Conflict aside, the New Zealand government still advises that "all New Zealanders do not travel overseas at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, associated health risks and widespread travel restrictions". This does not include the Cook Islands.