Re: [SEELANGS] Question about recent history Russian Travel advisory

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

Subject: Re: [SEELANGS] Question about recent history Russian Travel advisory
Date: Sun, 5 Sep 2021
From: Michele A Berdy <maberdy@GMAIL.COM>
From: Justin Wilmes <upthera44@GMAIL.COM>

Could anyone fill me in on the recent history of the U.S.’s travel advisories to Russia? Currently Russia has a rating of Level 4: Do Not Travel, but this it lists both Covid-19 and other reasons related to internal ‘political’ dangers of Russia (copied below). My question is, has the Level 4 rating been a standing policy for the past year or two or was it raised recently in relation to Covid? This has implications for planning study abroad. If it is primarily Covid and may change back to Level 3 (or 2) this year, then Study abroad programs have some chance of going through. Thanks in advance!

Here is the Advisory: “Do not travel to Russia due to terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19 and related entry restrictions.”

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There has been a bit of a kerfuffle in Moscow over that rating, with AmCham (now an almost entirely Russian organization) sending out a survey to expats that would “counter” that danger assessment. But they aren’t survey writers (I’m being generous), and the questions and answers were something like: Are you afraid of being arrested? 1) Yes, I don’t trust the Russian police and 2) No, if I am not breaking the law I have no fear of the Russian police, who do their jobs professionally.

Covid: Everything is open and people don’t wear masks except in stores (and not everyone) or in places like museums that enforce the rules. Some events are “covid-free” and they won’t let you in without a QR code certifying vaccination, a certificate of vaccination, or a PCR test within 72 hours. But although it might seem like we’re over Covid, but we’re not. The excess death numbers indicate that deaths from Covid are about three times higher than announced, and there is a surge. Russia on Sunday reported 18,645 new coronavirus cases and 793 deaths. So if you are at risk, you need to be careful.

One thing that is important – they don’t recognize western vaccinations, so when people arrive, they usually get Sputnik Lite (easy to get at several big venues). Then you can get the QR code. (If anyone has trouble getting one, let me know. I finally found the responsive place that can issue them if you have a scanned vaccination certificate).

As far as other security issues – other than scam artists targeting Russian speakers (calls purporting to be from Sberbank, etc.), Moscow is not a dangerous place. I don’t hear about any muggings or other crimes against expats or foreigners. On all the expat chat sites, the biggest problems are landlords who won’t register you and/or who try to keep the security deposit.

But, obviously, there are set-ups. Getting involved in Russian politics would be quite a risk, as would having a military or governmental association but coming on a regular visa. I think everyone knows if they might be at that kind of risk.