DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that Ukrainian citizens remain eligible for visa on arrival in the country, two days after it was announced that the policy had been suspended.
The news comes as Russian bombings all over Ukraine intensify, and the number of people who have fled Ukraine as refugees surpasses 1 million, according to the United Nations.
“Concerning reports on the issuance of advance visas to Ukrainian nationals to enter the UAE,” the ministry said in a statement, “Ukrainian nationals continue to be eligible for visa on arrival to the UAE.”
It added: “The UAE also provides critical services to Ukrainian nationals in the UAE who require assistance, in coordination with the Embassy of Ukraine in the UAE.”
On Tuesday, March 1, a post on the Ukrainian embassy in the UAE’s Facebook page said that the UAE was temporarily suspending the memorandum of understanding between the two countries that had established mutual cancellation of visa requirements.
“From today, citizens of Ukraine – passport holders of Ukrainian citizen for going abroad should receive a suitable visa for visiting the UAE,” it said. The Ukrainian embassy confirmed the policy change on a phone call with CNBC, adding that it did not know the reason for the decision. The news was met with widespread anger and criticism among Ukrainians and on social media.
Previously, Ukrainian nationals could enter the UAE and stay for 30 days with no prior need to apply for a visa. It appears that policy has been reinstated.
The Ukrainian embassy in the UAE wrote on its Facebook page Thursday: “After receiving the official note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs … on the temporary suspension of the visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens,” the embassy “carried out active work with the Emirates … in order to cancel this decision.”
It added that Ukrainians have been able to board flights to the UAE without visas.
At the same time, the embassy noted that it hadn’t yet received official confirmation from the Emiratis on the restoration of the agreement between the two countries.
The UAE initially abstained on a U.N. security council vote led by the U.S. to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. But it changed positions in new General Assembly vote Wednesday, abandoning neutrality to vote along with 140 other nations in favor of a resolution demanding Russia halt its invasion of Ukraine and withdraw all troops.
The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday also announced it would send 18 million dirhams ($4.9 million) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The tourism authority of the UAE’s northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah said on the same day that Ukrainian tourists there, who are now stranded outside their home country, can remain in their hotels free of charge.
Some 15,000 Ukrainians live in the UAE and roughly 250,000 visit the country as tourists yearly, according to Ukraine’s government.