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Correspondent 6

Help in case needed

By Paul Miazga

Paul Miazga www.go2kiev.com columnist touched on the idea of personal safety, especially in general.He is not talking about keeping your purse safe but how to deal with cops, the issue of carrying ID, and what to do in case the cops try to take you to the station. He think’s it’s a good note given how cops still try to shake down people for money here in Kyiv (and elsewhere in Ukraine).

For visitors to Ukraine, it helps to know what to expect from your particular embassy, especially since here the police still shouldn’t be fully trusted and the rule of law has an entirely different meaning compared to in the West. Despite how glorious the country can seem at times, I’ve heard many horror stories from friends – including those who’ve lived here for months or even years – about being rudely shaken down by cops, drugged and left penniless after a night out for drinks with a nice-looking young lady, or worse. Despite what local politicians might say, and what the citizenry might aspire to, Ukraine is not “Europe” in the way most people know it.

Which brings me back to the embassies here: most Western embassies operate from 8:30 a.m. or 9 until 4 or 5 p.m. While these embassies are typically here to provide travel and work visas for locals or to facilitate bilateral trade links, they are here to protect you, their fellow citizens, begrudgingly or not.

Know Your Numbers

On the main page of www.go2kiev.com , the upper left-hand side of the page under “Planning a trip to Kiev” offers a full and completely updated list of all embassies and consulates in Ukraine, including telephone numbers. Travelers and visitors to Ukraine should familiarize themselves with the number most relevant to them and, in the case of European Union citizens, to know the number of the Delegation of the European Commission (tel. 8044 253-3020; 10 Kruhlo-Universytetska St.) as well as a back-up.

Second, if you have access to a cell phone in Ukraine, use it. If you don’t have one, borrow or buy one: it’s the best defense you have, other than using common sense, to avoid trouble while here. A cell phone means you look less like a tourist and, therefore, less vulnerable – including to cops with itchy palms. You’re only one call away from a friend or someone else who can help you.

Third, know your rights. Before arriving in Ukraine, try to learn all you can about what rights foreigners have and don’t have (is carrying ID necessary? No. Should you carry at least a photocopy of your passport or some other form of picture ID at all times? Yes. Can a cop arrest you for having a photocopy instead of your actual passport? No. Can a police or militia officer demand that you take him to your apartment or hotel room to show him your actual passport? No.) Many cops in Ukraine, especially the most corrupt, tend to either be ignorant of the law they’re supposed to uphold or familiar with only those parts of it that can help them extort money from unsuspecting foreigners. If they demand your identification, you demand theirs. If they won’t show it to you, the con is on. Be compliant but firm, and keep your head.

Fourth, never, for any reason, pay a bribe to a cop or public official in Ukraine. No good can come of it.


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