U.S. Issues Highest Level Warning for American Citizens: Cease Travel to Russia Immediately

The U.S. on Monday issued a top-level advisory warning American citizens to leave Russia immediately and cease travel to the country as Russia’s war against neighboring Ukraine continues, citing risks of harassment and wrongful detention for Americans specifically.[0] The State Department has urged all citizens to not travel to Russia and has issued its highest level, Level 4, of alerts.[1]

The embassy cautioned that it is severely limited in its capacity to assist U.S. citizens in Russia due to personnel constraints, travel restrictions, and the discontinuation of consular services.[2] The department also said that dual U.S.-Russian citizens in particular risked being forcibly conscripted into Russia's armed forces.[3]

The warning follows the high-profile prisoner swap of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony on drug possession charges.[1] The U.S. strongly criticized the trial and sentencing of Griner, which brought further attention to the case of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is currently being held in Moscow on suspicion of espionage.[1]

The Kremlin has dismissed the State Department’s warning, saying it is “not new.” [4]

Next week marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.[5] For months, Ukrainian and Western defense officials have been warning that Russia is likely to launch a major assault in order to make progress after achieving little in recent months.[6]

Nato's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than the current rate of production and this puts defence industries under strain.[6] The foreign minister of Hungary announced that he would be traveling to Minsk on Monday in an effort to maintain open lines of communication.[6]

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow warned of the “unpredictable consequences” of the war in Ukraine, and said citizens could face potential harassment or wrongful detention by Russia's security services.[7]

0. “US tells citizens in Russia to leave “immediately,” cites risk of “wrongful detentions”” Egypt Independent, 13 Feb. 2023, https://egyptindependent.com/us-tells-citizens-in-russia-to-leave-immediately-cites-risk-of-wrongful-detentions

1. “‘Depart immediately’: US tells citizens to leave Russia” PIX11 New York News, 13 Feb. 2023, https://pix11.com/news/us-tells-citizens-to-leave-russia-immediately/

2. “Americans in Russia could be forced to fight in war, US warns” WTOP, 13 Feb. 2023, https://wtop.com/russia-ukraine-war-news/2023/02/americans-in-russia-could-be-forced-to-fight-in-war-u-s-warns/

3. “Russia Might Force U.S. Citizens Living in Country To Fight for Them” Newsweek, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/russia-us-citizens-mobilization-ukraine-war-1780720

4. “Americans warned to leave Russia as State Dept. issues ‘do not travel' alert” New York Post , 13 Feb. 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/02/13/state-department-warns-us-citizens-to-leave-russia-not-travel-to-the-country/

5. “The U.S. is urging Americans to leave Russia ‘immediately' due to security risks” NPR, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/02/13/1156503920/americans-russia

6. “Ukraine-Russia war latest: Ukraine ‘using more munitions than Nato producing'” msnNOW, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/ukraine-russia-war-latest-us-tells-citizens-to-leave-russia-immediately/ar-AA17pG5P

7. “U.S. Warns Citizens to Leave Russia, Citing Risk of Draft” The Moscow Times, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2023/02/13/us-warns-citizens-to-leave-russia-citing-risk-of-draft-a80208