Europe: Extension of the high terrorist threat level in Bryansk Oblast until July 23 /update 68
Russian authorities have extended the “high” (yellow) terrorist threat level in Bryansk Oblast until July 23; the measure was previously set to expire on July 8. Authorities in Kursk Oblast have not indicated whether they will also extend the yellow threat level in their jurisdiction, a guideline which was also set to expire on July 8. “Yellow” terrorist threat is the middle level on a three-point scale where “increased” (blue) is the lowest level and “critical” (red) is the highest. The authorities have provided no official justification for the high level of the terrorist threat; however, Ukrainian saboteurs are said to be active in the border areas and several incidents could be attributed to them. Additionally, cross-border artillery fire occasionally hits border villages in Kursk and Bryansk oblasts, often in response to artillery fire from Russia.
Conflict-related sanctions have continued to cause disruption in Europe since July 9.
The airspace of many countries remains closed to all Russian planes and flights. Russia has put in place reciprocal bans from Russian airspace for airlines operated by these countries, including EU member countries, UK, Canada, US, Australia , New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. In addition, several airlines not necessarily impacted by the closures of national airspace have decided to partially or totally suspend services using Russian airspace.
European restrictions on air travel
Belarus has partially closed its airspace, including southern Brest region and areas south of Asipovichy and Krichev in Mogilev region. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also issued an advisory regarding the airspace around the borders between Belarus and Ukraine and between Russia and Ukraine. To view the full EASA warning, click here.
Russian travel restrictions
The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) has again extended the suspension of flight operations at 10 airports in the country’s south-west and at one airport in Russia-annexed Crimea until at least 03:45 MSK on July 12. Affected facilities include Anapa Airport (AAQ), Belgorod International Airport (EGO), Bryansk International Airport (BZK), Elista International Airport (ESL), Gelendzhik Airport (GDZ), Krasnodar International Airport (KRR), Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS), Lipetsk Airport (LPK), Rostov-on-Don Airport (RVI) and Voronezh International Airport (VOZ) in Russia, in addition to the airport Simferopol International (SIP) in Crimea annexed to Russia.
Russia has scrapped the simplified visa process available to diplomats and journalists from the EU, Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Holders of diplomatic passports from these countries must obtain a visa to enter Russia.
Several governments, including those of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, have issued travel advisories urging their nationals to avoid traveling to Russia and those of that country to leave by commercial means when safe to do so. .
Additionally, several governments have expelled many Russian diplomats on various grounds, including espionage and other national security concerns. Moscow generally retaliates in the same way. Such tit-for-tat moves may result in a reduction in consular services available in each country, although basic services are likely to be maintained while diplomatic missions remain open.
Increased security and general disruptions
Several countries sharing borders with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have implemented enhanced security. Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Lithuania have declared states of emergency. Nevertheless, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland are all keeping their borders open with Ukraine and taking in refugees.
Ukraine has closed its border checkpoints with Belarus, Russia and the Transnistria region of Moldova to foreign nationals; however, Ukrainian citizens are allowed to return.
Since late April, Moldovan authorities have tightened security across the country following a series of security incidents, including explosions and shootings, in the breakaway region of Transnistria. Separatist officials in Transnistria also briefly raised the enclave’s terror threat level.
As part of the sixth sanctions package, EU authorities agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of 2022. The ban targets oil delivered by tankers; oil will still be transported through the southern segment of the Russian Druzhba pipeline to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic until the end of 2024. The EU has also banned other Russian public broadcasters and cut off others Russian banks in the SWIFT international payments system, including the country’s largest financial institution, Sberbank.
Sanctions and counter-sanctions could limit the ability of certain foreign nationals to operate in Russia and Belarus and that of Russian and Belarusian nationals to operate in Europe. However, foreign nationals seeking to leave Russia or Belarus, or Russians and Belarusians seeking to leave European countries, are unlikely to encounter administrative obstacles. Shortages of essential goods due to panic buying are possible.
In addition to government sanctions, more than 750 companies have suspended or terminated their activities in Russia. PayPal has halted services in Russia, while electronic payment companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express have suspended operations in the country. American Express has also suspended all operations in Belarus. Western Union has suspended operations in Russia and Belarus.
Russia has stopped supplying natural gas to Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Poland and Bulgaria. This decision came in response to the refusal of these governments to accept the Kremlin’s demand that the so-called “hostile nations” pay for the gas in rubles. Russian authorities may decide to cut off natural gas deliveries to other European countries in the coming weeks. Russian authorities have also cut gas supplies to several other countries, including Germany, France and Italy, citing technical problems.
The Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine (GTSOU) interrupted the transit of gas through the Sokhranivka gas metering station and the Novopskov gas compressor station. The volume of Russian gas delivered to Europe via Ukraine then fell by around a third.
Authorities in several countries have issued notices to seafarers regarding the ongoing danger posed to shipping by drifting sea mines, mainly in the northwest, west and southwest sectors of the Black Sea. Such mines have been discovered in the coastal waters of Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of dropping drifting mines in the Black Sea.
Civilian ships cannot operate in the Northern Black Sea or the Sea of Azov. Several civilian vessels were damaged in the area, two of which sank, and Russian naval forces reportedly arrested at least three others.
Russian vessels and vessels operated by Russia are barred from entering EU, US and UK ports.
Heightened anti-Western sentiment is possible in Russia and Belarus in reaction to the international response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Although there are currently no increased direct threats to the safety of Western or foreign nationals in Russia or Belarus, isolated incidents of low-level harassment are possible. A potential increase in anti-Western sentiment could also lead to increased surveillance, harassment or coercion of foreign nationals by border guards, police and other officials.
Confirm flight status with carriers; do not leave the accommodation until the trip is confirmed. Avoid non-essential travel to affected border regions; postpone the trip to Ukraine. Redouble vigilance in public gathering places in major urban centres. Take into account the instructions of the authorities; remain calm and cooperative if questioned by law enforcement. Carry proper identification, including a passport with a current Russian or Belarusian visa if required. Prepare for card payment disruptions in Russia. Make sure other payment methods are available. Refrain from discussing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine or other politically sensitive topics, including on social media.
European Union Aviation Safety Agency
French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Russian Federal Service for Communications, Information Technology and Media Monitoring
Advice for travelers to the UK Russia
United States Embassy in Russia