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US Government Tells Citizens to Leave Russia or Risk Being Harassed, Singled-Out

‘Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions,’ warned the State Department

Americans in Russia have been warned to leave the country immediately by the Department of State.

The department has also advised against traveling to the country and has warned those considering a trip to “exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions.”

“Do not 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 U.S. 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 U.S. citizens in Russia, and the possibility of terrorism,” said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in a Feb. 13 statement. “U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately.”

The State Department warned that Americans who had recently visited or who reside in Russia have been “interrogated without cause and threatened by Russian officials.” Those affected include former and current U.S. government and military personnel and private citizens.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and schoolteacher Marc Fogel are both currently incarcerated in Russia. 

“The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia is severely limited, particularly in areas far from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, due to Russian government limitations on travel for embassy personnel and staffing, and the ongoing suspension of operations, including consular services, at U.S. consulates,” per the statement.

Americans were warned that U.S. debit and credit cards will not work in Russia and that electronic fund transfer services are limited due to sanctions imposed on Russian banks by the U.S. and the international community.

Americans in Russia have been advised there is a cash shortage and instructed to make independent arrangements to leave the country “as soon as possible” as the Embassy “has severe limitations” on its ability to assist citizens hoping to leave.

“Transportation options may suddenly become even more limited,” the embassy warned.

U.S. citizens should avoid all political or social protests and not photograph security personnel at these events,” the message added. “Russian authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who have participated in demonstrations.”

A Kremlin spokesperson noted that the U.S. government has issued these types of public warnings before. In September 2022, the state department advised Americans to leave as Russia may “refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure” after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization. 

“[Warnings] have been voiced by the State Department many times in the last period, so this is not a new thing,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, per Reuters

The warning comes just over a week before the year anniversary of Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine.

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