The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on February 20 warned Americans in Russia to have plans in place for possible evacuation, citing reports of unspecified threats to Russian targets as Western governments warn that a Russian attack on neighboring Ukraine appears imminent.
The caution for U.S. citizens drew an angry response from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which challenged the United States to share knowledge of possible threats.
“According to media sources, 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,” the U.S. Embassy statement said.
U.S. and NATO officials say Russia has massed more than 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and they have challenged Moscow’s claims that it has begun sending some troops back to their barracks.
President Joe Biden said on February 18 that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin had already made up his mind to invade Ukraine, which has been fighting an eight-year war with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. State Department on January 23 issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia over “ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine.”
Now, it has urged Americans to “review your personal security plans” and “have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded by questioning whether U.S. officials had passed along information of any intelligence on possible attacks being prepared against Russia.
“And if not, how is one to understand all of this?” she said.