U.S. Again Tells Citizens to Leave Russia by Car as Airlines Halt Flights

The U.S. government is urging all citizens to leave the country by car as tensions over the invasion of Ukraine continue to escalate.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Russia issued the Level 4 alert on Saturday, citing "the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials [and] the Embassy's limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia" is possible. The official website noted that commercial flight options for Americans leaving the country are limited and suggested that they consider "overland routes by car and bus."

"If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible," the embassy's statement read. "If you plan to stay in Russia, understand the U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options may change suddenly. U.S. citizens who are able to depart Russia for another country and are in need of emergency assistance upon arrival may contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in that country."

Extra caution was advised for Americans living near the Russian border with Ukraine or those planning to travel near that area, due to the "dangerous and unpredictable" circumstances.

russia us embassy leave by car
The U.S. Embassy in Russia has urged citizens in the country to leave as soon as possible amid rising tensions over Ukraine. Above, a view of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Flight options out of Russia are increasingly limited as airlines continue to suspend operations in the country in response to the violence in Ukraine, with some airlines avoiding Russian airspace altogether.

"Given the ongoing armed conflict, U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling by land from Russia to Ukraine," the statement explained. "In addition, there is the potential throughout Russia of harassment of foreigners, including through regulations targeted specifically against foreigners. Given the ongoing armed conflict and the potentially significant impact on international travel options, U.S. citizens should depart Russia immediately via the limited commercial options still available."

Due to the steep economic sanctions imposed against the country for its military actions, the embassy warned that some credit or debit cards might be declined in the country, and noted that reports have indicated cash shortages. Due to these factors, it urged any citizens opting to stay in Russia to make alternate plans to access money.

Due to the restrictions on travel in Russia and the departures of staff, the U.S. Embassy explained that its ability to provide emergency services is currently limited, which is especially true for citizens living further away from the embassy's location in Moscow.

The statement specifically urged U.S. citizens against traveling through two regions: The North Caucasus region, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, "due to terrorism, kidnapping, and risk of civil unrest"; and Crimea, the region in Southern Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014, due to "abuses by its occupying authorities."