US State Dept. Ridiculed After Urging Citizens To ‘Reconsider Travel’ To Russia

The US State Department has overhauled its travel safety warning system downgrading Russia to the same category as troubled areas including Mauritania, Sudan and Niger

They claim the move is “due to terrorism and harassment” and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow

It also comes just five months before Russia is due to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the US State Department of cultivating “blind fear of Russia among Americans” following the travel warning.

RT reports: The new State Department classification sees countries divided into four zones, when it comes to personal security. Russia has been bundled into the “orange” category (the 2nd most dangerous of the quartet), meaning US citizens should “reconsider travel” to this destination.

Twitter was ablaze on Thursday and Friday with condemnation of Russia’s “orange” status. For instance, Mark Galeotti, a pundit at US State Broadcaster RFE/RL described it as “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Whether a political move or stupidity, truly ludicrous,” the Russia watcher commented.

The State Department itself claims the changes are part of an “effort to streamline information on threats overseas and present it in a clearer, more direct fashion” at a “time of increased travel – 2017 was on track to be a record year for the number of Americans travelling abroad. In 2016, there were over 80 million Americans who went overseas.”

Some users have suggested the decision may be more political than practical.

Leonid Ragozin, an author at Lonely Planet, protested “if travel advisories are a tool of punishing countries for aggressive behavior, of which Russia is clearly a culprit, then fair enough. But if the idea is to provide accurate info for citizens, then it is a piece of garbage.”

Ukraine, currently enduring a civil war in its east and frequent social unrest in the capital, is placed in the yellow band, which only requires Americans to “exercise increased caution.” Meanwhile, Kosovo, a partially recognized entity associated with human-organ trafficking, widespread corruption and organized crime is also considered safer than Russia.

Crucially, both Kosovo and Ukraine are US allies, whereas Russia is regarded one of the top foes in Washington amid unproven allegations of election meddling and geopolitical tensions in Europe and the Middle East.

The advisory includes a warning that “terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Bomb threats against public venues are common,” which could equally be applied to any other major European country these days including Germany, France and the United Kingdom – all of which have category two safety grades.

As reporter Fabrice Deprez pointed out, the French Foreign Minister has declared Russia “all safe, except for the South (sic) Caucasus.” The North Caucasus, located in the south of Russia, is a region where counter-terrorism operations are frequent.