Americans warned to leave Russia as State Dept. issues ‘do not travel’ alert

The State Department has told any US citizens still in Russia to leave immediately due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the risk of harassment and incarceration at the hands of Kremlin security officials. 

​”US​ ​citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately. Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions​,” reads the department’s latest travel advisory issued Monday. 

The department also urged US citizens not to travel to Russia “due to the unpredictable consequences of the unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment and the singling out of US citizens for detention by Russian government security officials, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia, and the possibility of terrorism.”​

The State Department said the US government is “severely limited”​ in its ability to provide emergency services to citizens in Russia, especially in areas outside of Moscow, citing Russian restrictions on travel for embassy staff.

The alert, updated from one issued in September, said US citizens have been stopped and interrogated, and warned that Russian officials may not inform the embassy that Americans have been detained.

“Russian security services have arrested US citizens on spurious charges, singled out US citizens in Russia for detention and harassment, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and convicted them in secret trials or without presenting credible evidence,” the State Department said.

Russia has also declared martial law in regions bordering Ukraine — allowing for a wide variety of harsh measures, including curfews, seizure of private property, restrictions on people’s movements, arrests of foreigners and bans on public gatherings. 

“Recent legislation has expanded the ability of Russian authorities to detain, question, and arrest individuals suspected of acting against Russia’s interests, including engaging with foreign and international entities, discrediting the Russian state or military, as well as advocating for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons,” the alert says. 

The Kremlin dismissed the State Department’s warning, saying it is “not new.” 

“Appeals not to visit Russia, to depart Russia – this is not the first time we have heard this. The Department of State has voiced this many times, this is not new,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released by Russia last December after being imprisoned for nearly 10 months after she was arrested at the Moscow airport for bringing cannabis oil into the country. 

She was freed in a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Former Marine Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia after he was arrested in 2018 and sentenced on espionage charges. 

Russia is one of 19 countries for which the State Department has issued a “do not travel” advisory. The others are: Afghanistan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen.


Enter comments here: