U.S. Warns Citizens Over Travel to Russia Due to 'Potential for Harassment'

The U.S. is warning citizens against traveling to Russia amid the Ukrainian conflict due to the "potential for harassment" from Russian government security officials.

A travel advisory issued Monday by the U.S. Department of State cited a host of additional concerns for U.S. citizens in Russia, such as COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, "the embassy's limited ability" for assistance and limited flights to and from the country.

"U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available," the advisory said.

The conflict in Ukraine entered its fifth day Monday, but Russia has yet to take key cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv despite early expectations that the invasion would quickly overwhelm Ukraine.

Meanwhile, countries and organizations throughout the world, including the U.S., have imposed sweeping economic restrictions on Russia and harshly condemned the nation's actions, potentially fueling frustration against the West among Russian government security officials.

The State Department advisory said that "there is the potential throughout Russia of harassment towards foreigners." This could potentially include "regulations targeted specifically against foreigners," the advisory said.

The advisory also noted the decreasing availability of flights into and out of Russia, and that many countries are blocking Russian airlines from their airspaces.

Russia Advisory
The U.S. is warning citizens against traveling to Russia amid the Ukrainian conflict due to the "potential for harassment" from Russian government security officials. Above, police officers during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine at Pushkinskaya square on February 27, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Russia is strictly limiting what nations can fly in its airspace. The state aviation agency announced Monday that carriers from 36 countries will not be allowed to enter Russian airspaces unless they receive special permission from the Federal Air Transport Agency or the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The travel advisory is part of larger ongoing efforts from the U.S. to protect Americans in Russia amid the invasion and armed conflict.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that the U.S. Embassy in the Russian capital of Moscow has been reduced in size. A notice attributed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the "voluntary departure" of non-emergency employees and family members at the embassy had been authorized.

"We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine," the notice said.

"We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world," it added.

The travel advisory noted the limited ability of the U.S. government to aid U.S. citizens in Russia, "particularly in areas far from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow due to Russian government limitations on U.S. staffing and travel, and the ongoing suspensions of operations, including consular services, at U.S. consulates."

It also urged against travel to the North Caucasus in Russia due to "terrorism, kidnapping and the risk of civil unrest," as well as travel to Crimea because of the Russian occupation and "abuses by its occupying authorities."

Update 2/28/22, 11:33 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.