The U.S. embassy in Moscow on Feb. 20 issued a security alert warning American nationals of possible terrorist attacks at public places in the country amid ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine.
The embassy, citing media sources said, “There have been threats of attacks against shopping centers, railway, and metro stations, and other public gathering places in major urban areas, including Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as in areas of heightened tension along the Russian border with Ukraine.”
Officials did not specify exactly which media sources it was referring to regarding the threats of attacks.
Elsewhere in its its security alert, the embassy urged Americans in Russia to monitor the news for information about the situation, stay alert when visiting locations that are often frequented by tourists or Westerners, review their security plans, and avoid crowds.
They also urged U.S. nationals to carry proper identification with them, including a passport with a current Russian visa, and encouraged them to make evacuation plans that “do not rely on U.S. government assistance.”
Russia is currently on a Level 4 travel advisory and Americans are warned not to travel to the country due to the situation with Ukraine, as well as the “potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, harassment by Russian government security officials, and terrorism,” according to officials.
COVID-19 entry restrictions are also cited as a reason for the Level 4 travel advisory.
“Terrorist groups, transnational and local terrorist organizations, and individuals inspired by extremist ideology continue plotting possible attacks in Russia,” the embassy said.
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas,” the travel advisory reads.
Earlier this month, the White House encouraged all Americans currently in Ukraine to leave the country as tensions at the Russia–Ukraine border escalate. Americans currently in Ukraine were asked to contact the U.S. embassy in Kyiv if they need financial or logistical help to leave.
The latest security alert comes as Moscow on Feb. 20 extended military drills in neighboring Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, raising further concerns among officials that the increasing presence of troops along the border could signal an impending attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Meanwhile, two soldiers in eastern Ukraine were reportedly killed and four were wounded by pro-Russian separatists’ shelling on Feb. 20.
However, separatist leaders accused Ukraine of attacking their forces over the weekend.
Western officials have in recent weeks warned that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day now,” after Russia placed more than 100,000 troops and heavy weapons within striking distance of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies that he has plans to invade Ukraine.
Over the weekend, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC that “they have all the capabilities in place, Russia, to launch an attack on Ukraine without any warning at all.”
“No one is denying that Russia has all these forces in place. The question is, will they launch an attack?” he said, adding that “there is no certainty about” whether Russia will invade.
“NATO allies and the United States have the same assessment, that it’s a very high risk for a Russian attack on Ukraine,” he said.
The United States and other Ukrainian allies have vowed to sanction Russia if it invades Ukraine.
But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 19 called on Western officials to develop a package of sanctions that would deter potential Russian aggression.
“Develop an effective package of preventive sanctions to deter aggression. Guarantee Ukraine’s energy security, ensure its integration into the EU energy market when Nord Stream 2 is used as a weapon,” he said in a speech at the 58th Munich Security Conference.
Zelensky told CNN that such sanctions were needed before a possible invasion, and not later.
“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders, or after we will have no economy … Why would we need those sanctions then?” he said.
From The Epoch Times