June 20. 2024. 12:37

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United States tells citizens: depart Russia immediately


The United States has told its citizens on Sunday (12 February) to leave Russia immediately due to the war in Ukraine and the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies.

“US citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately,” the US embassy in Moscow said. “Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions.”

“Do not travel to Russia,” the embassy said.

The United States has repeatedly warned its citizens to leave Russia. The last such public warning was in September after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation.

“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 embassy said.

“Russian authorities arbitrarily enforce local laws against US citizen religious workers and have opened questionable criminal investigations against US citizens engaged in religious activity.”

Russia has opened a criminal case against a United States citizen on suspicion of espionage, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said in January.

The FSB did not name the person or provide any other details, nor did it say whether the suspect had been arrested.

“The American is suspected of collecting intelligence on biological topics directed against the security of the Russian Federation,” the FSB said.

It did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations.

A number of US citizens have been detained on criminal charges in Russia in recent years, with some ultimately freed in exchange for Russians detained in the United States. In December, US basketball star Brittney Griner was freed after being sentenced to 9 years in prison on drug charges.

For Brittney Griner, months as Russian prisoner end on UAE tarmac

After months of painstaking negotiations with Moscow, it became clear to President Joe Biden’s administration that it faced a grave choice – to exchange notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for US basketball star Brittney Griner.

She was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who spent 14 years in US jail for arms trafficking, money laundering and conspiring to kill Americans.

Who is Viktor Bout, arms dealer linked to swap for Americans held by Moscow?

The life of Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer jailed in the United States and linked to a possible swap for two US citizens detained by Moscow, sometimes reads like a far-fetched spy thriller.

However, espionage cases are seen as especially fraught, with Russian security services often unwilling to release those it accuses of being spies.

Russia has so far refused to swap US Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan, who was arrested by the FSB in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.