US tells its citizens to “depart immediately” from Russia
Washington: The United States today asked American citizens residing or travelling in Russia to “depart immediately” as stated in its latest travel advisory.
“It is not safe for US citizens to be in the Russian Federation,” Washington stated and stressed, “if you are an American citizen in Russia, you should leave”. It though clarified that the travel advisory warning for Russia “continues to be a Level 4 and has been for quite some time and that continues to be the case. And it continues to be our message to any American citizen currently inside the Russian Federation”.
“Our message to American citizens residing in Russia is that the travel advisory warning is a Level 4, and that they should leave. And if they need assistance doing so, they can get in touch with our mission in Moscow,” US State Department principal deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel stated here today (IST), reiterated at a press conference here today (IST).
The US statement follows the detention of 31-year-old American journalist Evan Geshkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, by the Russian Federal Security Service, and the assertion by Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova that Evan, an accredited journalist, was engaged in all sorts of activities but journalism.
Washington reacted by condemning “clearly and unequivocally in the strongest terms, the Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices”.
Evan’s detention has put the Biden administration on the back foot and given enough ammunition to the Republicans to attack the government. Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who is a Republican, criticised President Joe Biden’s previous prisoner swaps that according to McCarthy, emboldened Putin to detain the American journalist. McCarthy said, “it…shows that when the President pays ransom, they’ll go after and take more Americans.” What is your response to the idea that previous prisoner swaps could have emboldened Putin to have Russia detain an American journalist?
Washington, ostensibly uncomfortable with the attempt to politicise the issue, concedes that this is a tactic the Russian Federation has long used and that the best tool to protect Americans is prevention. “And currently, that is discouraging them to go to Russia in the first place… And it is clear it is not a safe place for American citizens”.
Claiming that with regard to the information on Evan’s detention, there was a “limit to the details and the sequencing”, Patel said, “We are still very much in the early stages here… We’re trying to obtain and ascertain as much information as we can…we are immensely concerned over Russia’s announcement that it has detained a U.S. citizen journalist”.
Patel informed that the US Embassy in Moscow has requested official notification of the arrest, and Russia is required to provide that under the US-Russia bilateral consular convention. He regretted due to Russia’s administrative procedures and security requirements, “it will likely be several days before that happens”.
Whenever US citizens are arrested abroad, Washington pursues consular access as soon as possible and Patel said “our focus is pursuing consular access as swiftly and as quickly as we can. That continues to be our priority and that’s what this entire department and our team in Moscow continues to be engaged on”.
The USA pointed at the Russian Government’s escalating repression that it claimed has affected journalists as well as civil society activists and the broader Russian community.
Referring to the fact that Evan’s is the first case of arrest of an American reporter in Russia since 1986, Patel accused the Russian Government of escalating repression against journalists and to civil society voices and the broader Russian community for quite some time.
“And as I noted, since February 24th, 2022, since they began their brutal assault on Ukraine, dozens of outlets and dozens of outlets and more than 100 individual media professionals have been labelled as “undesirable organizations” or “foreign agents” for doing their jobs. Russian citizens are routinely jailed or fined for reporting basic facts or daring to share any opinion that differs from the Kremlin’s narrative. Our first priority will always be US citizens, but I want to reiterate to independent Russian journalists and civil society voices who continue to speak out or are jailed or are in exile, we stand in absolute solidarity with you,” Patel said.
– global bihari bureau