Government building in Moscow, Russia
Government building in Moscow, Russia iStock

The US State Department on Sunday warned American citizens not to travel to Russia amid tensions with Ukraine.

The State Department upgraded its travel warning to Russia to Level 4: Do Not Travel.

“Do not travel to Russia due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against US citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law,” the warning reads.

“Due to Russia’s heightened military presence and ongoing military exercises along the border region with Ukraine, US citizens located in or considering travel to the districts of the Russian Federation immediately bordering Ukraine should be aware that the situation along the border is unpredictable and there is heightened tension. Given the on-going volatility of the situation, US citizens are strongly advised against traveling by land from Russia to Ukraine through this region. In addition, there is the potential throughout Russia of harassment towards foreigners, including through regulations targeted specifically against foreigners,” it adds.

The warning notes that “the US government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to US citizens in Russia is already severely limited, particularly in areas far from the US Embassy in Moscow due to Russian government limitations on US staffing and the suspension of consular services at US consulates.”

The warning was issued shortly after the State Department ordered the families of all American personnel at the US Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the US Embassy in Kiev that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Sunday that US President Joe Biden is considering deploying several thousand US troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

According to administration officials, this would be an expansion of American military involvement amid mounting fears of a Russian incursion into Ukraine.

In a meeting on Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, senior Pentagon officials presented Biden with several options that would shift American military assets much closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s doorstep, the administration officials said. The options include sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the potential to increase that number tenfold if things deteriorate.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Biden is expected to make a decision as early as this week.

Last week, Biden issued a warning to Putin amid signs that Russia is planning an invasion in Ukraine.

"It is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine," Biden said in a press conference to mark a year of his presidency.

He added that Putin "will be held accountable" and has "never have seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed" if Russia makes further moves against Ukraine.

Biden predicted a Russian invasion of Ukraine, though he suggested a "minor incursion" would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country.

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