is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Russia.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Russia country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Russia at Level 2,
indicating travelers should exercise increased caution. Do not travel to the
North Caucasus, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, due to terrorism,
kidnapping, and risk of civil unrest; or to Crimea due to Russia’s
occupation of the Ukrainian territory and abuses by its occupying
authorities. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Moscow as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. Visitors to Moscow should exercise the same
amount of caution as they would visiting other large cities in the region, as
no area of the city is immune from crime. Crimes against tourists do occur at
popular tourist sites and on public transportation. Be cautious and
aware of your surroundings. Exercise caution in the vicinity of large crowds. Do
not leave bags unattended. U.S. nationals have been victims of serious crimes
when visiting Russia. Russian authorities are not always
willing to investigate crimes impartially and thoroughly. Review OSAC’s
That You Should Leave Behind.
to recently published crime statistics, the number of reported crimes in Moscow
dropped by 1%in 2019. However, the number of homicides, attempted homicides,
and serious crimes saw an increase of over 15% in comparison to the previous
year. Minor offenses, the most widely reported type of crimes, dropped slightly
2019, telephonic bomb threats against public venues continued to be a nuisance
in Moscow, which resulted in the evacuation of over a million people from
multiple locations throughout the city. The callers mostly targeted government
buildings, airports, hotels, shopping malls, train stations, schools, and
entertainment venues, with little regard for the disruptions they caused for
businesses and residents. Although the telephonic bomb threats appear to be
more of a nuisance than a threat, local authorities must treat each event as a
real threat and are required to inspect, and often, evacuate the targeted
leave your drink unattended in a bar or club. Alcohol was a significant
factor in most criminal activity reported by foreign visitors. Review OSAC’s
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
credit card or ATM card theft to the credit card company or issuing bank
immediately. Avoid carrying large sums of cash. Review OSAC’s
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
Cybercrime is a significant problem across
Russia. Russian hackers and traditional organized crime structures continue to
work together, raising threats to the financial sector. The risk of infection,
compromise, and theft via malware, spam e-mail, sophisticated spear phishing,
and social engineering attacks is significant. Remain vigilant against cyber
threats, and actively use cyber security measures to mitigate risks. Review
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
conditions and driver safety norms differ significantly from those in the
United States, especially outside of major metropolitan areas. Winter weather,
which tends to last for six months or longer every year, can change rapidly and
cause dangerous driving conditions. Proper vehicle maintenance, winter tires,
and defensive driving skills are essential. Keep vehicles serviced and in
optimum condition before travel.
strictly enforce local driving regulations; violators are subject to severe
legal penalties. Avoid excessive speed and, when possible, do not drive at
night outside of major cities. Roadside checkpoints are commonplace.
Russia enforces a zero-tolerance policy regarding operating a
vehicle under the influence of alcohol; there are strict penalties for
violations that exceed the allowable blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.03.
Police conduct random traffic stops and can compel drivers to submit to a
sobriety test. A driver’s refusal to submit to the test equates to an admission
of having consumed alcohol. The maximum punishment for drinking and driving is
a two-year suspension of a driver’s license. Authorities may detain an
intoxicated driver until they are sober.
must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and generally observe this requirement.
It is dangerous to cross where there is not a crosswalk present.
Russian law requires that vehicles
involved in an accident not move until police arrive. Moving a vehicle will
result in that driver assuming full responsibility for damages. The only
exception is a situation in which vehicles block traffic; in this case, the
parties involved must take photographs from different angles and move the
vehicles to a nearby location that does not block traffic.
Staged vehicle accidents are a
problem in Russia. Perpetrators usually attempt to extort money through
intimidation. There have been cases in which accomplices have arrived at the
scene posing as officials. A true State Inspection for
Traffic Safety (GIBDD) inspector wears a black uniform (never camouflage) and a
silver-red badge. Traffic
police assigned to foot duty carry black and white batons. Legitimate police
should always provide their name and rank. A real traffic inspector should
never show up alone or without a police car.
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
and St. Petersburg have extensive and efficient public transportation systems. There
is the threat of petty theft on crowded Metro trains and in stations. Terrorist
acts have also occurred in train stations and at airports.
taxi companies generally provide reliable, safe, and economical services.
Ride-sharing services (e.g. Uber, Yandex, Gett) are in wide use in Moscow, and
are as safe as elsewhere in the world. When hailing a taxi curbside, be alert
to the potential for substantial overcharging, particularly in areas tourists frequent.
using unregulated taxis; passengers have been victims of robbery, kidnapping,
extortion, and theft. Robberies may also occur in taxis shared with strangers. Always
use authorized services when arriving at an airport.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed that the Russian
government’s Civil Aviation Authority complies with the International Civil
Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of Russia’s air
carrier operations. The main transit airports in Russia are in Moscow:
Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), Domodedovo International Airport
(DME), and Vnukovo International Airport (VKO).
U.S. Department of State has assessed Moscow as being a HIGH-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
There is the potential for terrorism in Moscow. Visitors should continue to
exercise caution, as no area of the city is immune from the threat of
terrorism. Terrorist groups, transnational and local terrorist organizations,
and lone actors inspired by extremist ideology and messaging continue plotting
possible attacks in Russia. 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.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Moscow as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or
affecting official U.S. government interests.
is the potential for civil unrest in Moscow in the form of unsanctioned
demonstrations. Russian law provides for freedom of assembly, but
local authorities are placing increased restrictions on this right. The law
requires that organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, or marches by more
than one person formally notify the government of their intent to assemble. Failure
to obtain official permission to hold a protest frequently results in the
dispersal of such protests. While numerous public demonstrations do take place,
local officials selectively deny permission to assemble or offer alternate
venues that are inconveniently or remotely located. Visitors should avoid
public demonstrations. Authorities have arrested U.S. nationals who have
participated in or been in the vicinity of demonstrations. Review the
Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 for
additional information on this issue. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
risk of civil and political unrest continues throughout the North Caucasus
region including Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Stavropol,
Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and Kabardino-Balkariya. Local criminal gangs have
kidnapped foreigners, including U.S. nationals, for ransom. In the Republic of
Chechnya, local authorities may harbor hostility towards U.S. travelers. The Department
of State advises U.S. nationals against traveling there, and to depart
immediately if they are there, and notes that the U.S. government has no
ability to assist U.S. nationals in this region. The Department also advise
against adventure tourism to Mt. Elbrus, a tourist destination, as it borders
this unstable and dangerous region.
of U.S.-based religious and student groups can take place in Russia. Russian
authorities arbitrarily enforce the law against U.S. religious workers, opening
questionable criminal investigations against those engaged in religious
authorities have detained, fined, and/or deported travelers for engaging in
religious activities. Russian officials have stated that Russia recognizes four
“traditional” religions: Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The
Russian government places restrictions on so-called “missionary activity” and
defines it broadly. Travelers engaging in certain types of religious work may
risk harassment, detention, fines, or deportation for administrative violations
if they do not have proper authorization from a registered religious group. The
Russian government has detained U.S. nationals for religious activities that
they contend are not permitted under a tourist visa. Even speaking at a
religious service (traditional or non-traditional) has resulted in immigration
the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that the religion is “extremist,” Jehovah’s
Witnesses have reported beatings and arson attacks on their homes. According to
Jehovah’s Witnesses, adherents have increasingly faced harassment at their
workplaces and, in some cases, dismissal or forced resignation when their
coworkers became aware of their religious beliefs. Media, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), and religious groups have reported several attacks on
individuals based on their religious identity. There were physical assaults on
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and others based on their ethnicity and religion.
In separate instances, arsonists attacked a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ home and place
of worship. Acts of vandalism motivated by religious hatred continue, including
against Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, and Buddhist religious
OSAC’s report, Freedom
to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
travelers and the State Department’s Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor International Religious Freedom Report
Russia suffers from extensive land and groundwater pollution due
to the lax environmental protections during the Soviet era. A
recent study indicated that Moscow’s air quality is comparable to other large,
industrial cities; however, there have been episodes of spikes in foul-smelling
emissions (particularly hydrogen sulfide) likely due to refurbishing work at
Moscow-area refineries. There have been no reports of long-term illnesses from
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Russia continues to experience industrial accidents directly
associated with inadequate enforcement of safety and health standards in the
workplace. Aging infrastructure and rampant corruption in regulatory bodies
have contributed to several well-publicized disasters. Authorities normally
enforce fines and facility closures only after an accident has occurred.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft
The United States imposes sanctions on Russian persons (i.e. individuals,
entities, vessels) in response to malign Russian conduct, including its illegal
annexation of Crimea, invasion of eastern Ukraine, election interference,
malicious cyber-enabled activities, human rights abuses, use of a chemical
weapon, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, and support to
Syria. While U.S. organizations and individuals can lawfully engage in a broad
range of business activities involving Russia that are not subject to sanction,
penalties for violating U.S. sanctions can be severe. Therefore, U.S. organizations
should familiarize themselves with potentially applicable sanctions and to
conduct thorough due diligence to ascertain whether a particular type of
business activity or particular customers, clients, suppliers or partners may
be subject to sanctions. More information on the U.S.
sanctions program is available at the U.S.
Treasury website. U.S.
investors can also use the “Consolidated Screening List” search tool on the U.S.
International Trade Administration’s website to check sanctions and control
lists from the Departments of Treasury, State, and Commerce as a part of
comprehensive due diligence in the Russian market.
The Russian Federation continued to implement regulatory reforms
in 2018, allowing Russia to climb four notches to 31st place out of
190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 Report. However,
fundamental structural problems in its governance of the economy, in addition
to Western sanctions, continue to stifle foreign direct investment throughout
Russia. Russia’s judicial system remains heavily biased in favor of the state,
leaving investors with little recourse in legal disputes with the
government. Despite ongoing anticorruption efforts, high levels of
corruption among government officials compound this risk. In February 2019, authorities
jailed a prominent U.S. investor over a commercial dispute. Moreover, Russia’s
import substitution program gives local producers advantages over foreign
competitors that do not meet localization requirements. Russia’s malign
activities have also resulted in European Union and U.S. sanctions, restricting
business activities and increasing costs.
Further information is available in the Department of State’s
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Investment Climate Statements for
the U.S. Commercial Service’s Country Commercial Guide.
traveling in Russia, maintain no expectation of privacy. Assume the Russian
government monitors all communications. Telephone and electronic communications
are subject to surveillance, which can potentially compromise sensitive
information. The Russian System for Operational-Investigative Activities (SORM)
permits authorities to monitor and record all data lawfully that traverses
Russia’s networks. Review OSAC’s Russian SORM Factsheet.
patronizing local services for banking, security, and medical treatment, ensure
that the providers are reputable. Be cautious in the amount of information that
you make available to these institutions. It is not uncommon for employees of
some organizations to pass sensitive personal medical, financial, and banking
information to criminal elements.
Personal Identity Concerns
Discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread in
Russia; acts of violence and harassment targeting the LGBTI+ community occur regularly.
Russian law bans providing “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to
minors. The law is vague as to what Russia considers propaganda, but foreign
citizens can face fines, up to 15 days in jail, and deportation if authorities
deem that their actions violate the law. Violence against the LGBTI+ community
has increased sharply since the passage of the law banning propaganda,
including entrapment and torture of young gay men by neo-Nazi gangs. In
Chechnya, law enforcement officials have also been involved in persecution of
the LGBTI+ community, and there have been multiple murders stemming from the
individual’s sexual orientation. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Getting around in Russia is often
difficult for persons with mobility issues. In general, public transportation
is not accommodating to people with disabilities. Mobility is usually easier in
major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Moscow Metro, though
extremely safe and efficient in other areas, is generally not accessible to
persons with disabilities. Sidewalks are narrow and uneven. Crossing streets in
large cities can be difficult, since it usually requires the use of a
pedestrian underpass, which includes stairs, steep ramps, and no elevators. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
is both a transit and destination country for narcotics trafficking. Penalties
for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Russia are severe. Convicted
offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Kidnappings occur infrequently and generally involve organized
crime. Motives range from ransom to political issues. There is no information
to suggest kidnappers are specifically targeting U.S. nationals. As ISIS continues to expand its global presence, remain cognizant
of the threats and vulnerabilities associated with kidnappings and abductions. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
travel to Crimea. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to
Crimea and are unable to provide emergency services to U.S. nationals there.
You may only legally enter Crimea from mainland Ukraine. Entrance into Crimea
by any other entry point other than from mainland Ukraine, such as air, sea, or
the Kerch Strait Bridge is illegal. Ukrainian authorities will deny you entry
into mainland Ukraine and ban you from entering Ukraine for five years. Time
spent in Crimea will count against the 90-day visa-free period for Ukraine. Executive
Order 13685 prohibits virtually all direct and indirect transactions (including
financial, trade, and other commercial transactions) by U.S. persons to or from
Crimea unless authorized by OFAC or exempted by statute.
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
You must have advance
approval to bring in satellite telephones. Global Positioning System (GPS) and
other radio electronic devices, and their use, are subject to special rules and
regulations in Russia. Contact the Russian Customs Service for required
permissions. Review OSAC’s report, Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Rigorous searches of baggage and
strict enforcement of customs regulations against the exportation of items of
“cultural value” can occur. Authorities have arrested U.S. visitors for
attempting to leave with antique items they believed they had purchased legally
from licensed vendors. Any article that could appear old or as having cultural
value, including artwork, icons, samovars, rugs, military medals, and antiques,
must have a certificate indicating that it has no historical or cultural value.
Authorities may not grant certificates for certain articles, either due to their
cultural value or antiquity. Obtain and retain receipts for all
high-value items (including caviar) purchased in Russia. Obtain export certificates
from the Culture Ministry. Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
The emergency lines in Russia are 102 from a landline or 020 or 112 from a mobile phone. For
local first responders, refer to the embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.
quality of assistance from local law enforcement varies. The Consulate has
received reports from U.S. nationals that some police officers were polite and
professional, while others were unprofessional or unwilling to deal with
incidents of crime. In some cases, local law-enforcement officers failed to act
even when they witnessed crimes in progress. The Internal Affairs Ministry (MVD)
has enacted reforms to professionalize the law-enforcement service.
have been public campaigns initiated to punish endemic bribery and corruption
among the police services. However, random document checks and other official
actions still provide opportunity for “on-the-spot” payment of fines. Foreigners
are commonly victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion by law-enforcement
and other officials. If stopped, politely obtain the officer’s name, badge
number, patrol car number, and note where the stop happened, as this
information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators.
Authorities are concerned about these incidents, and have cooperated in
Embassy recommends against the payment of bribes in any circumstance. If you
find yourself in a situation where an officer solicits a bribe, immediately
inform the police that you wish to contact your Embassy.
all crimes immediately to the police and to the American Citizen Services
section of the Embassy. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) is the
agency primarily responsible for ensuring public order and conducting routine
criminal investigations. The uniform worn by the police is dark blue, with the
word Полиция (police) across the
back and a police patch on the shoulder.
State Inspection for Traffic Security (GIBDD)
is the MVD entity responsible for the regulation of traffic and investigating
traffic accidents. Their uniforms
are black with red trim.
Federal Security Service (FSB) is Russia’s main domestic security agency. The
FSB combines functions and powers like those exercised by the U.S. FBI, CIA,
and the Department of Homeland Security.
The emergency number for an
ambulance (“Skoraya Pomosh”) is 03 from a landline or 103 from a cell phone. Medical care
can be expensive and may not be comprehensive. Some private facilities offer
high-quality services, but many restrict services to normal business hours. The
Russian national medical system provides emergency care that ranges in quality
from poor to mediocre by Western standards. Pharmacies are widespread and
frequently offer 24-hour service, although the English-language ability of
staff may be limited. Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website, Consulate General Yekaterinburg’s Medical
Assistance page, or Consulate
General Vladivostok’s Medical Assistance page.
should purchase medical insurance that covers medical evacuation (medevac) via
air ambulance and that will reimburse for medical treatment provided in Russia.
The U.S. Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical
costs in Russia. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing
international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the
State Departments webpage on insurance
a copy of valid U.S. prescriptions, including a notarized translation into
Russian of each prescription, when entering Russia with prescription
medications. Prescription medication should be in its original packaging. Certain
classes of over-the-counter cold medicines, such as those containing
pseudoephedrine, are illegal in Russia. Do not bring cold medication with you
to Russia. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with
time to time, reports of measles outbreaks occur.
should consult U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) guidance for
information on coping with air pollution. The CDC recommends all travelers have
current routine vaccinations as well as hepatitis A; some travelers should
receive inoculations against hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, and/or rabies. The CDC offers additional information
on vaccines and health guidance for Russia.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and
Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
Country Council in Moscow is active, meeting several times a year. Contact
OSAC’s Europe team for more information
or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Bolshoy Deviatinskiy Pereulok No. 8, Moscow 121099
Regular business hours: 0830 –
1630, Monday – Friday, excluding Russian and U.S. Holidays
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In Russia
you travel, consider the following resources: