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One bag’s journey to Russia and Ukraine

Melanie Johnson, our Interim Director of Global Logistics, looks back on a challenging year supporting staff at post. This included getting the diplomatic bag through to Kyiv and Moscow during the crisis.

Looking back to the end of February 2022, transport routes were only just starting to get back up and running in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Our Accompanied and Unaccompanied Diplomatic Bag service was running to nearly all posts by then, albeit with some restrictions and delays still impacting different parts of the world

We were working hard to get essential equipment out to Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) employees across the network. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine

When Russia invaded, our ability to adapt became significant. Due to the unpredictability of the war, our teams had to adjust constantly to new situations to ensure our secure logistics services could continue.

Working closely with colleagues across FCDO Services in Europe and FCDO staff from a wide range of directorates, we responded quickly to evolving needs.

Staff changes in the FCDO’s Crisis Centre were frequent and a cross-government commitment, under constant media scrutiny, meant that close collaboration was essential. 

The closure of post

When the British Embassy in Kyiv closed temporarily, our teams supported its drawdown. We ensured that equipment was sent to Warsaw and other neighbouring countries, where additional support was being provided.

Although maintaining contact with colleagues often proved difficult during this time, IT and security equipment, satellite phones, medical equipment and other urgent requests were prioritised.

This ensured we could support our colleagues on the ground in Ukraine, while still delivering our global logistics operations and business as usual work out of the UK to the rest of the overseas network.

Meanwhile, colleagues based in Russia were feeling the effect of sanctions imposed by the UK Government following Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

Credit card payments were failing, currency rates spiralling, and routine items became scarce.

Deliveries were frequently stopped at the border and transport routes changed at short notice.

Visas into Russia were a challenge too, so operations had to be carefully planned and requests prioritised. 

The dedication of our staff was commendable in such adversity but with excellent team spirit and good communication, we did all we could to get the diplomatic bag delivered.