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Russia 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Yekaterinburg

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Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate Yekaterinburg does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEKATERINBURG AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Russia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Yekaterinburg, with an estimated population of 1.4 million people, experiences moderate levels of crime compared to other major Russian metropolitan areas. The police are able to deter many serious crimes, but petty crimes still occur with some frequency, and they remain a common problem. Pickpockets are active, although to a lesser degree than in Moscow or St. Petersburg, on public transportation, at shopping areas, and at tourist sites. Thieves commonly target wallets, cell phones, computers, tablets, cameras, and high-value items. Keep wallets in an inner front pocket, carry a purse securely under the arm with compartments zipped/closed, wear the shoulder strap of cameras/bags across the chest, walk away from the curb, and carry purses/bags out of reach from passing cars. The most vulnerable areas for crime include underground entrances to and within the subway system, overnight trains, train stations, airports, open markets, and crowded tourist events.

Travelers are encouraged to make copies of their passport photo page and visa, as well as credit card numbers (to include telephone contact information). These copies should be stored in the hotel or residence in the event that the original items are stolen.

As a general rule, lesser developed areas in major cities have higher crime rates. Additionally, more crimes of opportunity occur during early morning hours; individuals who frequent bars, nightclubs and similar establishments are more likely to be involved in physical altercations after midnight. Foreigners who consume alcohol to excess are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in/around nightclubs/bars or on their way home. Some travelers report having been drugged at bars, while others have taken strangers back to their lodgings, where they were drugged, robbed, and/or assaulted. For more information, please review OSAC’s ReportShaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

Corruption continues to be an issue and is not limited solely to the law enforcement sector. The solicitation and payment of bribes occurs with some frequency and is widely accepted as a practical business transaction.

Organized crime groups and related violence have not targeted Americans or other foreigners. However, Americans or other foreigners could fall victim of mistaken identity or by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since the 1980s, northern Yekaterinburg has been the home to several criminal gangs, including the notorious Uralmash organized crime syndicate. This crime group and others may still have some influence in local society. Most of the street crimes associated with these groups are geographically isolated to the neighborhoods within their turf. 

Reports of financial transaction fraud and identity theft are rare and not directly attributable to particular banking institutions. Instances of Americans having become victims of identity theft have occurred. RSO encourages the use of ATMs inside banks, when possible. Preference should be given to illuminated areas where attaching skimming devices is more difficult. Anyone who may have been victimized should report incidents to the credit card company or issuing bank immediately.

Yekaterinburg’s crime rate is likely to increase if the Russian ruble loses additional value against the U.S. dollar and euro, the unemployment rate increases, and local economic conditions worsen. 

Cybersecurity Issues

The cybercrime threat is acute and ever-present. The risk of computer infection, compromise, and theft via malware, spam e-mail, sophisticated spear phishing, and social engineering attacks are significant. A January 2016 news release from Hyatt hotel headquarters specifically mentioned its Yekaterinburg hotel as the recent victim of a data breach that may have impacted guests who stayed there during the previous six months.

Other Areas of Concern

There are several closed cities and regions in Russia. One of the larger closed areas is north of Yekaterinburg, near Serov in Sverdlovsk Oblast. If you attempt to enter closed areas without prior authorization, you may be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. You must list on the visa application all areas to be visited and subsequently register with authorities upon arrival at each destination. There is no centralized list or database of the restricted areas, so travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel, or the nearest office of the Russian Federal Migration Service before traveling to unfamiliar cities and towns.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Many city streets have areas in need of repair. Motorcyclists should be extremely careful of road hazards. Asphalt quality varies, and roads outside of the city may be in worse condition. The major inter-city road network is often in need of repair, so defensive driving, increased following distances, and remaining alert to changing conditions will greatly reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents.

Impatient drivers may use paths reserved for trolleys or streetcars with an expectation to merge back into traffic. Though driving along sidewalks is not common, drivers will often park on areas of the sidewalk that may restrict pedestrian movement. Exercise great care near traffic while walking and especially when crossing streets.

It is recommended that vehicles be serviced and in optimum condition before you travel. Although all-wheel or four-wheel drive is not absolutely necessary, it has great advantages during the winter. It is wise to carry an extra fan belt, fuses, and other spare parts. Some vehicles operate with right-hand drive. Even though they are driven on the right side of the road, this can limit visibility on two-lane roads.

When self-driving, adhere to all local driving regulations. These are strictly enforced, and violators are subject to severe legal penalties, as well as to bribery by corrupt traffic police. Photo enforcement of traffic laws is common. Increased caution should be used when driving at night and in poorly illuminated areas outside of larger cities of the consular district. Russia has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to alcohol and driving. The maximum punishment is a two-year suspension of a driver’s license. An intoxicated driver may also be detained until deemed sober. Russian law requires that vehicles involved in an accident not be moved (even to the side of the road) until police arrive. If a driver moves his vehicle at all, s/he can be found at fault for the collision, regardless of any contributing factors. In the event of an accident and to avoid potential liability, vehicles should not be moved until traffic police have assessed the scene. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s ReportDriving Overseas: Best Practices.”

To mitigate highway crime, avoid driving at night or alone. Do not sleep in your vehicle on the side of the road. Do not pick up hitchhikers, as they may pose a threat to your physical safety and put you in danger of being arrested for unwittingly transporting narcotics.

Staged vehicle accidents present 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 a black and white baton. Legitimate police should always provide their name and rank. A real traffic inspector should never show up alone or without a police car.

Public Transportation Conditions

Yekaterinburg’s public transportation system consists of a subway (Metro), bus, trolley, tram, and streetcar lines. Taxis are commonly used, although best practice is to arrange services in advance by calling a dispatch service or using a smart phone application (Uber, Yandex.). Taxi services from reputable hotels have also proven to be safe and reliable. The Consulate discourages the use of unmarked taxis (sometimes referred to as “gypsy cabs”), as passengers can become victims of robbery, kidnapping, extortion, or theft. The criminals using these taxis to rob passengers often wait outside bars or restaurants to find passengers who have been drinking and are therefore more susceptible to robbery or fare dispute scams. Robberies may also occur in taxis shared with strangers. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Russia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Russia’s air carrier operations. Several Russian carriers have participated in the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program, an industry-sponsored safety audit program. 

Airport security procedures in Yekaterinburg involve pre-inspection/screening of passengers and luggage near the main entrance and a secondary detailed inspection after passport control. In December 2015 and February 2016, Yekaterinburg’s International Airport was evacuated and shut down for approximately two hours due to a telephonic bomb threat, which was subsequently determined to have been a hoax.

Other Travel Conditions

Rapid weather changes and associated road hazards are quite common in the Ural region. From October until April, rapid accumulations of snow/ice may develop before road surfaces can be cleaned. As a result, visibility is diminished, and roads become narrower due to snow removal challenges.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEKATERINBURG AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Within the last decade, Russia has been impacted by terrorist attacks. Bombings and acts of violence have occurred at government buildings, airports, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, residential complexes, and on public transportation (including subways, buses, trains, and commercial flights). Extremist groups occasionally threaten to set off bombs in market areas that are operated largely by migrant workers in major cities.

In December 2016, Yekaterinburg’s Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center received multiple terroristic threats by purported ultra-nationalists who want the facility closed.
On February 7, 2016, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested seven migrants in Yekaterinburg with alleged connections to ISIL who reportedly had planned to attack subway systems in Yekaterinburg, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. During the arrest, explosive materials were confiscated.
On August 10, 2016, the FSB and Ministry of Interior special purpose troops (OMON) raided 27 apartments (16 in Yekaterinburg, 6 in Tyumen region, and 5 in Chelyabinsk region) and detained 69 individuals in Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk Oblasts, in a special operation that targeted an online ISIL recruitment and communications network, according to the FSB press service. The network, whose Tajik name in Russian translates as “Guide to the Islamic State,” allegedly promotes terrorism, recruits ISIL fighters, facilitates financial donations to ISIL, and passes encrypted and anonymized communications among its members. According to press reports, the FSB confiscated computers, mobile telephones, propaganda videos, extremist literature, bank cards, weapons, and explosive materials.
On October 31, 2015, a Russian-operated international chartered passenger plane disintegrated above northern Sinai while traveling from Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport (Egypt) to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. ISIL claimed responsibility for the aviation attack, and investigators later found traces of TNT explosives. All 224 passengers and crewmembers were killed. 

As ISIL and other prominent terrorist organizations continue to expand their global footprint, increased concerns will ensue.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and economic sanctions by the U.S. and other countries against Russia for its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has increased tensions between the Russian Federation and the U.S. U.S. government accusations of Russian-led hacking during the 2016 U.S. presidential election have also been widely covered in Russia. As a result of these events and pervasive anti-American propaganda on Russian state media, anti-American and anti-Western sentiment has grown throughout Russia.

Small anti-American demonstrations in front of Yekaterinburg’s Consulate occurred periodically throughout 2015 and 2016. All protests were non-violent, monitored by police, and concluded peacefully. Extreme nationalist and anti-Western groups also periodically demonstrate in Yekaterinburg’s center. The most common venue is the corner of Lenina Street and Pushkina Street. Some of these demonstrations caused temporary street closures.

Members of the ultra-nationalist groups “National Liberation Movement (NOD)” and “Patriots” periodically demonstrate outside of the Consulate. One or both groups were present during the Consulate’s December 2015 holiday celebration at the Consul General’s residence, during the Consulate’s July 2016 Independence Day celebration at Hyatt hotel, during the Consulate’s September 2016 POL/ECON Officer welcome reception at Hilton hotel, and during the Consulate’s November 2016 Election Day party at Hyatt hotel. At each event, guests and Consulate staff were photographed and questioned upon arrival/departure. Photos were later uploaded to websites as part of a name and shame effort to highlight those individuals who interact with the U.S. Consulate. Given current bilateral relations and varying propaganda from various mediums, U.S. citizens should be mindful of nationalist extremists who may act on their own accord to inflict harm. 

Neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups typically articulate anti-foreigner and anti-Western views. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED YEKATERINBURG AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Almost all rallies are sanctioned by the government and are closely monitored by local law enforcement. Nevertheless, U.S. citizens should avoid public demonstrations, whether authorized or not, and avoid any large crowds and public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Religious and ethnic tensions exist but have not resulted in violence. 

Post-specific Concerns

Critical Infrastructure

The Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station is located less than 60km east of Yekaterinburg, and the Mayak nuclear weapons production plant is located 150km southeast of Yekaterinburg. These local nuclear facilities pose unique and grave concerns. In 1957, a poorly maintained storage tank at Mayak’s Kyshtum site exploded and released nearly 100 tons of high-level radioactive waste that contaminated more than 750km2 (290sq mi). The subsequent radioactive cloud resulted in large-scale sickness and death from radiation poisoning, despite evacuation efforts. The Kyshtym disaster was ranked third, behind Ukraine’s Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima.

Economic Concerns

American businesses are susceptible to economic and industrial espionage. Information theft, especially from insufficiently protected computer networks, is common. It is recommended that businesses employ a wide array of techniques to counter corporate espionage (video monitoring devices, alarm systems, computer network protection programs).

Certain activities that would be considered normal business practices in the U.S. either violate the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). There are particular risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, production facilities, or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined.

Privacy Concerns

When traveling in Russia, U.S. citizens should have no expectation of privacy. Travelers should assume all communications are monitored. 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. A “SORM Factsheet” is available.

When utilizing local services for banking, security, and medical treatment, U.S. citizens should ensure that the providers are reputable organizations. 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

Neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups are present in Yekaterinburg. Racial and ethnic minorities should use greater caution or entirely avoid areas where individuals who appear to be associated with neo-Nazi or extreme nationalist groups are loud, boisterous, and/or intoxicated. Their activity is often focused against Central Asian immigrant workers; they have not specifically targeted the American expatriate community.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread in Russia, as harassment, threats, and acts of violence have targeted LGBT individuals.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug-related crimes are rapidly increasing in the Yekaterinburg area. Russia is both a transit and consumer country for various drugs. The most popular drugs are marijuana, heroin, and “spice” (a type of synthetic cannabis, also known as “bath salts”)

Kidnapping Threat

As ISIL continues to expand its global presence, Americans should remain cognizant of the threats and vulnerabilities associated with kidnappings and abductions.

Police Response

The quality of assistance from local law enforcement varies. The Consulate has received reports from American citizens 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 take action even when they witnessed crimes in progress. Over the last several years, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has enacted reforms to further professionalize the law enforcement service. Americans are urged to abide by local laws and monitor the local news. Police do not need to show probable cause in order to stop, question, or detain individuals.

Rigorous searches of baggage and strict enforcement of customs regulations against the exportation of items of “cultural value” can occur. U.S. visitors have been arrested for attempting to leave with antique items they believed were legally purchased 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. Certificates may not be granted for certain articles, either due to their cultural value or antiquity. Travelers should obtain receipts for all high-value items (including caviar) purchased in Russia. Certificates must be obtained from the Russian Ministry of Culture.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

There 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. It is not uncommon for foreigners to become 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 investigating such cases. The Consulate recommends against the payment of bribes in any circumstance. If you find yourself in a situation where a bribe is solicited, immediately inform the police that you wish to contact your Consulate. Report all incidents of police detention or harassment to the U.S. Consulate’s American Citizen Services office at +7 (343) 379-3001 Mon-Fri during normal working hours (0830-1730) or after-hours/weekends at +7 (917) 569-3549.

Crime Victim Assistance

American citizens should report all crimes immediately to the police and to the American Citizen Services section of the Consulate. The Russian Federation emergency number for the police is 112. As of the end of 2015, 112 was not activated in all regions of Russia, though it is in effect in Yekaterinburg. Although the emergency call system (especially outside of large cities) may not have English language capabilities, the unified emergency call system is expanding the use of the European standard and will have greater foreign language capacity. Police and medical services can also be called directly.

Police (Emergency): 112 (112 from cell phone)
Police (Non-Emergency): 02 Varies by location (002 for traffic police)
Fire: 01 (101 from cell phone)
Ambulance: 03 (103 from cell phone)

Police/Security Agencies

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) is the central law enforcement body. State Inspection for Traffic Security (GIBDD) is the MVD entity responsible for the regulation of traffic and investigating traffic accidents.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is the main domestic security agency. The FSB combines functions and powers similar to those exercised by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, CIA, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency number for an ambulance (“Skoraya Pomosh”) is 03 or 103 from a cell phone. Medical care in most Yekaterinburg facilities is often characterized by shortages of medical supplies, differing practice standards, and the lack of comprehensive primary care. Most facilities require cash or credit card payment at the time of service. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at particular risk. Those traveling to more remote areas might consider bringing more extensive medical supplies, to include a supply of sterile, disposable syringes, and corresponding IV supplies.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

DOCTOR PLUS MEDICAL CENTER/Ambulance +7 (343) 222-03-03
Address: 7 Lenina Ave., Yekaterinburg
Tel: +7 (343) 212-06-06
Web: www.doc-plus.ru/ambulance 

SVERDLOVSK REGIONAL HOSPITAL NO. 1
Address: 185 Volgogradskaya St., Yekaterinburg.
Tel.: +7 (343) 351-1697 (registry), (343) 351-1640, (343) 351-0251 (admissions office).
Web: www.okb1.ru
E-mail: office@okb1.ru

SVERDLOVSK REGIONAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL NO. 1
Address: 32 Serafimy Deryabinoy St., Yekaterinburg.
Tel.: +7 (343) 240-5980 (general inquiries), (343) 232-0126 (registry).
Web: www.odkb.ru
E-mail: mail@odkb.ru

ALFA HEALTH CENTER / CLINIC
(pediatrics, dentistry, physiotherapy, gynecology and urology, functional and laboratory diagnostics, ultrasound and x-ray, computerized tomography, masseur, vaccination, trauma unit. Out-patient services.)
Address: 17 Gorkogo st., Yekaterinburg.
Tel.: +7 (343) 311-09-99, (343) 311-0912, (343) 311-0913
Web: www.alfazdrav.ru
E-mail: mail@odkb.ru

DIAGNOSTIKA-2000 / MEDICAL CENTER
(ultrasound, functional and laboratory diagnostics, consultations of cardiologists, therapists, rheumatologists, gynecologists, neurologists, immunologists, ophthalmologists, and endocrinologists. Out-patient services.)
Address: 61 Belinskogo St., Yekaterinburg.
Tel.: +7 (343) 351-0880, (343) 351-0888
Web: www.diagnostika-2000.ru
E-mail: diagnostika@r66.ru

DOCTOR-PLUS MEDICAL CENTER
(diagnostics, gynecology, gastroenterology, dermatology and cosmetology, dietetics, cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, proctology, plastic surgery, psychotherapy, physical therapy, rehabilitation programs, trauma and orthopedics, urology, surgery, endocrinology, audiology. Emergency assistance 24 hours a day. In-patient and out-patient services.)
Address: 90 Sheynkmana St., Yekaterinburg
Address: 7 Lenina Ave., Yekaterinburg (Trauma)
Tel.: +7 (343) 212-0606
Web: www.doc-plus.ru
E-mail: doctorplus@inbox.ru

ZDOROVYE 365 PRIVATE HOSPITAL
Address: 83 Kuznechnaya St., Yekaterinburg
Tel.: +7 (343) 270-1717 / Fax: + 7 (343) 270-1717, ext. 2
Web: www.zdorovo365.ru
E-mail: info@zdorovo365.ru

Available Air Ambulance Services

International SOS Russian 24/7 Hotline: +7 (495) 937 5760 (Moscow)

Insurance Guidance

Visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to traveling to Russia.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

In October 2016, Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast was reported to have the highest rate of HIV infections in Russia. The spread of HIV, and subsequently AIDS, is linked to the use of illegal narcotics. While the growth in HIV infections is not new to the region, the mode of transmission is changing from drug-use-associated needle sharing to heterosexual intercourse. As a result, incidence of HIV infection among women of childbearing age is on the rise and so is mother-to-child transmission. Changes in the types of drugs used, from heroin to synthetic cannabinoids and cathinone, exacerbate the problem, as drug rehabilitation efforts are limited to detoxification alone while the authorities wage an all-out war on drugs, drug traffickers, and users. As of 2016, there were more than 85,000 HIV-positive registered individuals in Sverdlovsk Oblast. Some experts believe the actual number is more than 200,000.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Russia.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Yekaterinburg. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Yekaterinburg or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate General Yekaterinburg
Ulitsa Gogolya 15A
Yekaterinburg 620151

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0830-1730, except on American and Russian holidays.

Consulate Contact Numbers

Tel: +7 (343) 379-3001 (after-hours: +7 (917) 569-3549)
Website:  http://yekaterinburg.usconsulate.gov/

Nearby Posts

Embassy Moscow: http://moscow.usembassy.gov/ 
Consulate St. Petersburg: http://stpetersburg.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Vladivostok: https://vladivostok.usconsulate.gov/

Consulate Guidance

For the latest security and other information, Americans should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found, as well as important information for Americans who face emergencies abroad.

U.S. citizens are reminded to register with the U.S. Embassy or closest U.S. Consulate by entering their travel itinerary and contact information on the STEP website. STEP provides secure online travel registration that allows American citizens to record foreign trip and residence information that the Department of State can use to communicate and assist enrollees in case of an emergency. STEP also allows American citizens to update their contact information on the Internet at any time to ensure pertinent info remains current. The site provides up-to-date travel information customized to the enrollee’s unique travel agenda and itinerary. The data that is entered is secured behind Department of State firewalls, accessed only by cleared personnel in Embassies, Consulates, and the Department of State, and releasable only under the provisions of the Privacy Act. In case of difficulties registering online, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

Additional Resources

Russia Country Information Sheet