Americans told to leave Russia 'immediately' or face false arrests, US warns

1 month ago Fox News

The U.S. State Department on Monday ordered all U.S. citizens in Russia to leave immediately as the war in Ukraine ramps up and concerns over arbitrary detentions mount. 

"U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately," the U.S. embassy in Moscow warned. "Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions."

In a stark message the department also said, "Do not travel to Russia."

The U.S. seal is seen in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow June 1, 2022


The embassy warned that its ability to help U.S. citizens in Russia was severely limited due to staffing limitations, travel restrictions and the suspension of consular services. 

All Americans have been warned to find a way out of the country immediately and reminded that U.S. debit or credit cards do not work in Russia, and the electronic transfer of funds has become increasingly difficult due to sanctions. 

"Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, singled out U.S. 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 embassy added. 

Fox News Digital could not immediately reach the State Department for comment on why this warning was issued now and whether that suggested a looming escalation in the war in Ukraine. 

The Kremlin on Monday dismissed the warnings by the embassy and pointed to similar calls to leave Russia issued by the State Department in September, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized more Russians to join his ranks in Ukraine. 

Russian police patrols Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow on Feb. 13, 2023. 

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

U.S. experts on Monday were divided on the significance of the warning and its timing, with one former Defense Intelligence Agency intel officer for Russian Doctrine & Strategy Rebekah Koffler, describing the alert as "serious."


Koffler pointed out that the announcement came 10 days ahead of Russia’s Soviet Army Day, also known as Defender of the Fatherland Day, and 11 days before the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. 

Ukrainian troops load 203 mm Pion artillery shells into a truck Feb. 2, 2023 after completion of a fire mission. Artillery continues to play an important role in the defense against the Russian invasion. 

"Putin wants to claim to some achievement," she said, warning that she believes Russia will launch a "massive assault" within the next week as it looks to gain some ground in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian and Western defense officials have been sounding the alarm for months that Russia is planning a major offensive in an attempt to turn the tide after gaining little ground in months. 

"There's no way for this war to go except up," Koffler continued questioning why the department had not issued another warning to U.S. citizens ahead of the looming offensive.

"Neither side has an exit [strategy]," she said pointing out that both Ukraine and Russia view the war as an existential threat and therefore will not concede on the battlefront.

Former CIA Moscow station chief Dan Hoffman argued the embassy alert was routine and served as a reminder to Americans of the dangerous situation they are in if they remain in or travel to Russia.

"Bottom line is that we've issued these warnings in the past," he told Fox News Digital. "Just because you issued it once, doesn't mean everybody remembers.

"We don't make decisions based on calendar dates," he continued. "I've [served] in a lot of embassies overseas. What we do though is we look at the threat and we say, 'it's still out there, we'll remind everybody – public service announcement.'"

A group of citizens gathers in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the capital of Russia, protested with the flags of Russia and Serbia, on April 3, 2022. 


"There's a big war going on and…U.S. persons are at risk," Hoffman said. "We got to serve our citizens and let them know that this is a dangerous place. 

"We probably don't want more people to get caught up in Russia's extortion," he added referring to Americans arrested is Russia like U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and basketball player Brittany Griner, along with the respective concessions Washington made in swapping an international arms dealer for the WNBA athlete. 

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