Russians warned about traveling to US
Russians considering “frivolous” trips to the US should think again, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday, warning that American authorities have ramped up arrests on pretexts of trade violations.
The US has closed its consulates in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok, while its embassy in Moscow has all but stopped issuing visas to Russians. More than 100 Russians are serving prison time in the US, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov revealed in April.
“Arrests of Russian citizens have become more frequent lately, under the pretext of violating US export control legislation,” Ryabkov told the outlet RTVI.
“I would like to caution all our citizens not to undertake such ill-advised travel, so to speak, and spend their time there in a state of mental agitation, expecting charges to be brought against them or that they might be accused of something by the American authorities,” Ryabkov added.
Russians who do decide to travel should keep in mind these possible hostile actions by US authorities.
“The Americans are increasingly engaging in provocations against our citizens,” Ryabkov said. “We all need to be on alert, keep in contact with our embassies and consular offices, and expect any hostile action or provocation, including arrests. Everyone who travels abroad needs to keep this in mind.”
Neither country has outright banned their nationals from visiting the other. Russia is still issuing visas to Americans, although the volume of requests has decreased significantly since the Ukraine conflict flared up in early 2022.
The US State Department has repeatedly urged Americans in Russia to “leave immediately” or face the prospect of being “wrongfully detained.” The call was reissued most recently after the jailing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges.
Having no suitable candidate in custody to exchange for Gershkovich, Washington is open to “creative solutions” such as having third countries arrest Russian nationals, an anonymous official told the WSJ earlier this year.
Former US Marine Paul Whelan – currently serving a 16-year sentence for espionage – has also asked to be exchanged for a captured Russian, after two high-profile prisoner exchanges left him behind. Over the past year, Moscow and Washington have swapped convicted drug smuggler and professional basketball player Brittney Griner for Russian businessman Viktor Bout, and exchanged former Marine Trevor Reed for pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.