During today’s daily press briefing at Foggy Bottom, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price announced that all American citizens currently in Russia and Ukraine should leave at once.
“All US citizens in Russia and Ukraine should depart immediately,” Price said, adding that Americans may be targeted by Russian security services because of their citizenship.
The US has seen Russian President Vladimir Putin “denigrate equality, free speech and human rights for all,” the spokesman added.
The US travel advisories have been updated to reflect reports that Russian security officials have singled out and detained US citizens, both in Ukraine and in Russia.
The US Department of State travel advisory for Russia was updated on Wednesday, urging American citizens residing or traveling in the country to leave right away.
The advisory for Ukraine was last updated on March 29 and still urges Americans there only to register with the US embassy.
The Russia advisory cites Russian invasion of Ukraine as the chief reason. Both Russia and Ukraine have been under the ‘Level 4 – Do Not Travel’ US advisory for over a year, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Price did not elaborate on reports that led the US government to announce the change.
American WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner had been detained by Russian authorities in recent weeks. Griner was arrested on February 17 – a week prior to Russian invasion of Ukraine – at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, for alleged ‘possession of illegal narcotics.’ A drug-sniffing dog alerted to her luggage and police found carrying cannabis oil cartridges for a vaporizer inhaler, according to the Russian police.
Griner has been charged with drug smuggling, and Russian court ordered her held in jail until May 19.