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Americans told to leave Russia as war protests grow over army conscription

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday issued a security alert calling on American citizens to leave Russia immediately.

The urgent demand comes as violent protests break out across the former Soviet Union over forced conscription as Vladimir Putin attempts to salvage what looks like the losing side of a war he started. The country’s threats to use nuclear weapons are not helping either.

The Embassy alert made reference to Putin’s speech that called for partial mobilization of Russian men who will be sent to Ukraine. Western estimates put the Russian death toll at near 60,000 in the eight-month war.

“Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service,” the alert said. It did not provide any specific examples.

And it added that “U.S. citizens should not travel to Russia and those residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain.”

As of Wednesday, commercial flights out of Russia are “extremely limited” and are often not available, the Embassy alert said, adding that bus routes via car and bus remain open. At the same time, U.S. citizens are advised not to travel to Russia.

“If you wish to depart Russia, you should make independent arrangements as soon as possible,” the alert said. “The U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may suddenly become even more limited.”

Bulgaria and Poland on Tuesday also recommended that their citizens consider immediately leaving Russia and called on them to refrain from traveling to the country.

There have been reports claiming that Russia’s borders will be closed down to men of fighting age in the near future as tens of thousands of people have left the country following last week’s speech. Moscow has not issued a public comment on those reports.

Russian authorities have also allegedly arrested U.S. citizens participating in protests against the Ukraine conflict, according to the embassy.

“We remind U.S. citizens that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia. Avoid all political or social protests and do not photograph security personnel at these events,” the advisory stated.

It comes as some European leaders and experts on Wednesday pointed to possible sabotage given the energy standoff with Russia. The three leaks were reported on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were filled with natural gas but were not delivering the fuel to Europe.

With the cost of the war finally hitting home for average Russians, opposition continues to grow. Last week, dozens of leaders of political states voted to formally oppose the war. Western leaders expect Russia to go into full mobilization – the first time since World War II.

As things look increasingly bleak, this week the opposition is turning violent as desperate young Russians attempt to fight back against being sent to the front lines.

In the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk a young man entered a military enlistment center and shot the commander at close range on Monday morning.

Russian media reports said the gunman walked into the facility saying: “No one will go fight,” and “We will all go home now.” Local authorities said the commandant was in intensive care in “extremely grave” condition.

The man, identified in the media as 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin, was reportedly upset a call-up notice was served to his best friend who did not have any combat experience, which authorities say is the main criteria for the draft.

=In the southern Russian region of Dagestan, at least 100 people were detained at a protest opposing conscription on Sunday, underscoring the anger with President Vladimir Putin’s order to send hundreds of thousands more people to fight in Ukraine.

Public anger has appeared particularly strong in poor ethnic-minority areas such as Dagestan, a Muslim-majority region on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the mountainous north Caucasus.

Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II, announced by Putin on Wednesday, has triggered protests in dozens of cities across the country.

The independent OVD-Info protest monitoring group said at least 100 people were detained in Dagestan’s regional capital Makhachkala. Dozens of videos posted on social media showed confrontations with police as protesters shouted: “No to war!”

Footage showed a group of women chasing away a police officer, while several clips captured violent clashes including police sitting on protesters as officers attempted to make arrests.

“Why are you taking our children?” one person shouted.

Police earlier fired warning shots into the air after dozens of demonstrators in Dagestan blocked a major road in protest against officials reportedly calling up more than 100 men from a village for military service.

–Wire services

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