The PALADINS extraction from Ukraine, late December 2022
This article applies to anyone who is contemplating instructing us to extract persons from Ukraine during the 2022 / 2023 winter period.
You've left it a bit late. Anyone in their right minds who had the money and capacity to leave Ukraine, and even those without the money, left long ago.
The winter season in Ukraine is bitter, with temperatures in some places routinely descending to -25 degrees Celsius. These temperatures mean that if you spend any significant period of time outdoors, you will die.
This makes things like cross-country driving (whatever the vehicle) potentially lethal, because if it breaks down in the middle of nowhere (as badly maintained vehicles are wanton to in Ukrainian winters), with no mobile phone coverage across a lot of the country's interior, you will be dead.
Moreover it is well recorded that Russian military forces are determined to attack electricity generation infrastructure across Ukraine, making it even more difficult to survive in Ukrainian winter temperatures. This policy could result in millions of deaths on a genocidal scale. We don't know yet.
The public hospital system has broken down entirely outside Kyiv. This means that if you get sick, there is no treatment available for you beyond what our team can offer as paramedics (which is limited to what we can carry in our rucksacks).
The only (barely) good news about a winter mission to wartorn Ukraine is that there is relatively little fighting because it is too cold to fight.
You will need to explain to us, with supporting documentation, your relationship to the person(s) to be extracted, because we have come across some unsavoury reports of people trafficking under cover of war (e.g. Ukrainian women being promised a good life in the West only to be coerced into prostitution or other illegal activities when they reach their destination). Obviously we will not be part of things like that. Indeed we will undertake due diligence of the most comprehensive kind to ensure that no instructions to us to extract might even possibly be part of any such scheme.
We respectfully remind our clients that we are an organisation that undertakes only ethical mandates. If you seek to test our commitment to this principle, then we reserve the right to hand your entire file to the relevant domestic or international law enforcement authorities.
One of the questions we will ask, should you seek our services, is: why can the individuals in question not extract themselves at this stage? There is a bus that runs not less than twice daily from Odessa to Chisinau via one of the various Palanca crossings (about the only reasonable route out of western Ukraine at the current time unless you are a VIP in which case you presumably do not need our assistance), and it costs EUR25 per person. We are exponentially more expensive than that, given the current danger represented to life and limb in entering Ukrainian theatre amidst winter conditions and the social paroxysms likely to be caused by the Russians turning off the electricity.
We have been advised that the winter conditions may make some or all of the 'informal roads' out of Ukraine impassable, save perhaps in a 4WD vehicle and with an excellent guide; although we have not tried this ourselves. We raise the issue just so that our readers may appreciate the substantial additional complications involved in the departure from Ukraine of Ukrainian males between the ages of 18 and 60; and other persons of unusual status.
Arriving at Chisinau is not the end of the road. The city is in chaos due to Russian gas cuts; an overflow of refugees; an influx of international officials; and soaring prices due to all these things. The city does not have enough hotel rooms and does not have enough electricity to heat the hotel rooms it has. Moreover Chisinau Airport is not in a good state. It has very limited flights and they are all full for the next few weeks. Those seats that are available are generally outrageously expensive.
Hence if you engage us to extract people from Ukraine, what do you want us to do with them once we reach Chisinau? There are various options but again they are all expensive if you do not want us to leave your newly extracted refugees on the freezing streets of Chisinau. We would not be prepared to accept instructions on such terms, so we will require aa a condition of our mandate that we are in adequate funds to cover the refugees' transfer to a safe environment which Chisinau currently is not.
All these things having been said, if you come to us with a serious proposal for a Ukraine winter extraction then we will consider it and we will do our best to accept your mandate. However we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept even legitimate and adequately funded mandates. Each case must be looked at on its individual merits, and within the bounds of the possible. We are a tough lot, but we cannot accept suicidal levels of risk.