Is It Safe to Travel to Russia?
Protests over Putin and an upcoming election year make people think twice when considering travel to Russia. If you’re undertaking an adoption or other necessary travel there, brief yourself ahead of time, and follow some of these easy travel safety tips.
Reporters bill the protests in Russia’s streets as “the largest in Russia in the past two decades” (CNN, Dec. 24th, 2011). Tens of thousands turned out last Saturday to march in Moscow’s frigid streets outside the Kremlin, as they called for fair and non-rigged elections. This, after parliamentary elections in early December and preceding the March 2012 presidential elections.
The protests are not limited to Russia’s capital city, since much of the agitation is occurring among very computer-savvy thirty-somethings, who are using the Internet to spread their message of “Russia without Putin”. Activists were reported to have been detained in Nizhny Novgorod, Barnaul, and also St. Petersburg.
Same-old, same-old, iron fist tactics for a “democratic” Russia.
So what’s a traveler to do?
1. Do not join large groups of people protesting. The American university students arrested in November in Cairo learned that pretty quickly, whether or not they actually threw any Molotov cocktails. You do not want to be found guilty by association. Stay away from large groups of people.
2. Read the Russian news on sites that offer it in English. Understand that some Russian news sites are not reliable. Read the international news sources, such as the International Herald Tribune, or CNN. Recognize that protest movements are very fluid and things can change rapidly, particularly on weekends or holidays.
3. Stay in touch with your country’s embassy in Russia, i.e., the American Embassy in Moscow. Before traveling, fill out their form that you are a US Citizen traveling in Russia and what will be your contact phone numbers. If anything really bad happens, they contact their own.
4. Our last children’s adoption was from a very dangerous part of Russia (by their estimations). There was a US State Department Travel Advisory suggesting that no Americans should travel to this region. None of the other parents who had gone there reported any problems, and there were no fresh reports of unrest when we went. Again, stay informed. Join your regional Yahoo Russian Adoption Group.
5. Stay alert when in the region. Always be aware of your surroundings in terms of suspicious persons. If a group of thug-like individuals is approaching you in a deserted alley, run for your life. Stay around well-lighted, well-populated places. Criminals don’t like witnesses.
Hopefully, these few tips will help alleviate your fears. I remember our first trip to Russia, I knew my (Russian) father would be monitoring the Russian news every minute on the minute. Our first day in Moscow there were reports of a fashionable blond woman being decapitated and her head rolling past a black Mercedes near Red Square. I knew my father would flip and feel that it had to be me, since there would not be any other fashionable blond women near Red Square on that particular day in history.
Reassure your loved ones. Stay in touch. Use common sense. Stay away from crowds. Unless something major develops, you should be fine.
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