Pyramid Temi Group has received first hand accounts of the harassment of business travellers leaving the Russian Federation.

Over the past few days a number of European citizens leaving the Russian Federation by air and land routes have undergone detailed inspections of their mobile devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones).

Officials at airport security and border crossings have inspected mobile devices with the objective of verifying the use of social media to make comments perceived as being ‘anti-Russian’.

It is to be noted that Russia has recently enacted a law to punish anyone spreading ‘false information’ about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison. Although focused on containing discontent through controlling the official narrative, and thus gaging the independent media, the law also applies to the use of social media.

As a result of the new law, travellers’ Instagram and Facebook accounts have been inspected as well as Whatsapp and Telegram conversations.

As a general rule, caution should be exercised at all times, however, in the present circumstances extreme caution must be the watchword and any temptation to post comments or share any form of information resisted.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, as the first hand accounts that we have received testify, it is not only British and American citizens who are at the greatest risk of harassment on the part of Russian officials.

It should be noted that on 7 March, the Russian Government approved a list of ‘hostile countries’ – Italy has been included in the list.

In addition to the inspection of mobile devices, foreign citizens have been subject to lengthy delays at border crossings while documents and visas have been controlled in detail.

Air travel has been severely disrupted, the sanctions imposed on Russia have caused widespread cancellations which have led to a number of difficulties in leaving the country.

Land routes have witnessed severe delays and complications. Booking rail travel involves queuing at railway stations where, in addition to having to pay in cash, according to anecdotal evidence foreign citizens have been subject to refusals. In addition, there are reports of non-Russian citizens being removed from trains.

All travellers must be aware of the risk of being accused of espionage, an accusation that entails their immediate arrest or, at the very least, a lengthy period of detention.

The risk should not be underestimated and as such implies caution in regards to information in the traveller’s possession.

Travel will continue to be problematic, delays and lengthy controls are the new normal. Travellers should remain calm and cooperate with border authorities at all times. It is imperative that no excuse for suspicion is offered.

We are fully operational in Russia. Our evacuation support covers the organisation of outbound travel and, importantly, the considerations necessary to closing and securing office and residential properties. Contact us for further details on how we can support your staff and operations in Russia: https://pyramidtemigroup.com/en/contact-us/