Dan Kaine of Inherent Risks speaks to Travel Insurance Insider offering his perspective as to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine...
In such difficult circumstances would it be fair to say that providing on the ground logistical support is a complex task, and what have you been managing to help clients with?
Thank you for this opportunity to perhaps provide some on-the-ground insights to your readers as to what the situation here is like, compared to what you might be seeing in the mainstream media for example, and to provide some context as to what Inherent Risks are currently involved with.
Myself and two colleagues were sitting in a meeting in London when I received a call to ask if we could urgently evacuate a family at high-risk from the Government Quarter in Kyiv.
Like many people at home, my mornings and evenings had been spent glued to the news. I’d read various intelligence reports from different organisations, but a majority of which seemed to contradict each other, and be opinion(s) rather than verified intelligence.
In the military there is a saying, ‘time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted.’... I boarded a flight, first landing in Hungary and visited the border crossing points, and then flew to Poland to do the same. This is where the adage of ‘don’t believe everything you hear in the media’ comes in.
My impression before I arrived was that fuel was scarce, both inside and outside of Ukraine (it’s not). Border crossings for foreigners into Ukraine were impossible (they’re not). There was a shortage of vehicles (there isn’t).
Both in Hungary and in Poland we have drivers, vehicles of all sizes, and translators who are supporting the evacuations of people, and recovery of assets from the Ukraine that our company has been retained for by insurers and engaged by private families to provide. We have our own, trained and experienced, expat teams also providing pre-travel safety and intelligence briefs to journalists and NGO staff who are entering the country insured by Hotspot Cover. In addition they are conducting journey management and tracking, and on standby to provide medical assistance and emergency response should the unexpected happen.
What is you advice to clients watching from Finland, Poland, Latvia etc. in terms of preparation or forward planning?
I think at this point, it would be entirely irresponsible of me to comment on whether I believe Russia will invade any other country. Is Putin capable? Yes, without a doubt. But, your question is more complicated than that.
Firstly, Finland is not a member of NATO whereas Poland and Latvia are. There are very different repercussions in the event that Russia invaded Finland vs. Russia invading a NATO country.
In a state of War, Finland has a wartime military strength of 280,000 personnel. They are well trained, well equipped, disciplined and determined. Just as Putin has underestimated the strength and determination of Ukrainians, if he were to attempt an invasion of Finland, he and the people of Russia would likely understand very quickly what an epic strategic mistake it had been.
If Russia attempted to invade a NATO country, it would be the trigger for World War 3, and backed into that kind of corner, Putin would likely ensure it’s a Nuclear war. Not to sensationalise my response, but we’re talking the end of life as we know it, for the rest of our lives, however long that may be. Let’s hope it does not get to that.
What is your understanding of the current situation / capabilities of treating facilities in Ukraine?
Every single morning we speak with our local network providers in and around the Ukraine to receive a situation brief. It’s bleak to put it mildly. Russia has destroyed somewhere in the region of 120 hospitals and clinics in the Ukraine. For those that are still standing and operational, they are over capacity, treating injured soldiers and civilians.
For the embassy staff, journalists, humanitarian organisations and logistics companies we are providing medical assistance and emergency response for in the Ukraine, our primary objective is to stabilise the patient, and evacuate them from the country as soon as possible, into a bordering country where we have medical network facilities, and in extreme circumstances, helicopters that can fly to within ten-miles of the border to rendezvous with evacuating teams.
If you were a company assessing post-conflict the right time to redeploy staff and/or assets back into Ukraine what would the key indicators be?
History repeats itself. In the past 12-months alone, Inherent Risks has evacuated expat and local staff from Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Iraq and Nigeria, only to then assist those same people back into those countries several weeks later. Often this comes down to what the triggers are on insurance policies, and what the risk appetite of various organisations are.
The Ukraine is very different. Will the conflict stop? Yes. How (and when) it stops will be the kicker. It will end in one of two ways (possibly three). The world will standby and allow Russia to take back control of the Ukraine. At which point, how many displaced Ukrainians will want to return, Or, Putin admits defeat, which he is unlikely to do unless he is given a very large incentive to do so. Or of course, countries intervene militarily, in which case this could also be a trigger for a world war.
The war in the Ukraine, although desperate for the victims, is one of the most complex diplomatic and military situations the modern world has ever experienced, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
It is far too soon to say what the key indicators for citizens looking to return to the Ukraine are.