Alert Plus – Russian Invasion of Ukraine – February 2022
During the early hours of 24 February 2022, President Putin announced that a military operation was underway in the Donbas, urging Ukrainian Armed Forces in the East of the country to surrender and depart the area.
Explosions have been reported in multiple cities across Eastern Ukraine, in addition to the capital city of Kyiv and Odessa in the south of the country. Ukrainian President Zelensky confirmed that Ukrainian infrastructure and border regions had been targeted by missile strikes, with at least 50 casualties officially confirmed. Information regarding the extent of damage to infrastructure is currently available.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence has claimed that only military infrastructure is being targeted by precision strikes, with Ukrainian air defence installations and Air Force bases the current focus of Russian missile activity. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has also reportedly stated that Ukraine’s Command and Control Headquarters in Kyiv were targeted in strikes.
Russian Armed Forces have also reportedly crossed from Belarus into the north of Ukraine, less than 200km from Kyiv depending on where the crossing occurred. Belarusian President Lukashenko has claimed to have prior knowledge of Russian invasion plans and that there is no threat to Belarus at this time.
Civilians in Kyiv are evacuating the city en masse, with a number of people seeking refuge in metro stations whilst many have boarded vehicles in an attempt to leave the city via road. Large traffic jams have also formed outside a number of other key population centres.
In a statement of defiance, President Zelensky claims that Ukrainian Armed Forces are actively resisting the Russian military advance. With a state of emergency already declared, President Zelensky announced the imposition of Martial Law on the morning of 24 February.
Solace Global Comment
Russia almost certainly intends to rout the Ukrainian Armed Forces and aims to establish aerial superiority as rapidly as possible in order to set the conditions for a successful ground invasion. The extent of any further Russian advance will likely depend on multiple factors, not least whether Ukraine’s Government remains in place and functional, and whether Ukrainian Armed Forces can mount a concerted defence in the face of overwhelming Russian force superiority.
Despite President Putin’s announcement that military operations have commenced in the Donbas, reports that Russian Armed Forces have crossed the border from Belarus, deployed into Kharkiv and are amassing in Crimea, represent a significant escalation in the conflict if they are accurate.
It remains highly likely that Russia intends to conduct further offensive operations in Eastern Ukraine, beyond the territorial extent of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, utilising multiple axes of advance from the North, East and South of Ukraine. It is currently undetermined if Russian ground forces intend to advance on Kyiv, but this remains a realistic possibility in the short term.
Any such operations would almost certainly involve the deployment of additional Russian Armed Forces currently positioned around the Ukrainian border regions, as has already begun in Kharkiv and Belarus, and will likely manifest as a phased approach via key population centres along major supply routes.
Vital ground such as airfields would be secured, Ukrainian military command centres destroyed, and extensive missile strikes remain highly likely in the coming days. Missile strikes and aerial bombardment, although ostensibly targeting military infrastructure, are likely to cause considerable collateral damage to civilian infrastructure.
The situation in Ukraine has deteriorated rapidly and will almost certainly continue to do so in the short term. There remains considerable potential for the conflict to escalate considerably and with minimal warning, which will significantly impact any attempt to evacuate in what is an already chaotic environment.
Solace Global Advice
- Travellers are currently advised against all travel to Eastern Ukraine. Any travellers in-country should immediately evacuate to a safe country by the most secure available route.
- Businesses and commercial operations east of the Dnieper River are advised to immediately cease all activity, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the Donbas region, and move their operations to more secure regions either outside of the country or to the West of Ukraine.
- Businesses and commercial operations in Kyiv should also seek to evacuate the country at the earliest available opportunity. Where this is not possible, businesses must ensure robust safeguards and evacuation plans are documented and followed when required.
- Aerial bombardment and missile strikes will occur with very little warning. Travellers in country should seek secure shelter immediately upon hearing explosions or warning sirens and remain there until instructed otherwise by the authorities or security personnel.
- Travellers should carefully consider their exit routes from the country. Commercial aviation is unviable in the short term and as such, alternative evacuation routes must be considered. Roads are likely to be gridlocked, particularly around large urban areas. Special evacuation services are being offered by rail services out of the Donbas.
- Ensure personal identification documents are always carried, in case you need to transit through a checkpoint or are requested to present it by officials.
- Update your escalation and evacuation plans for Ukraine, focusing on what protocols staff members should follow in the event there is further significant deterioration in the security environment.
- Anticipate a heightened military presence throughout the country with additional security being reported near all major political and media buildings. Exercise vigilance and follow all official directives.
- Travellers should follow local media and use the Solace Secure app to stay up to date with security-related events. Travellers requiring assistance in evacuating the country should do so at the earliest opportunity.