U.S. Issues Travel Warning For Belarus And Urges Americans To Leave

U.S. Issues Travel Warning For Belarus And Urges Americans To Leave

Uncertain conditions in Belarus have led U.S. State Department officials to recommend that all American citizens leave the former Soviet republic immediately.

U.S. personnel at the embassy in Minsk, Belarus, said in a recently issued alert that they may be unable to assist citizens living in or traveling to the nation, due to “the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest [and] the risk of detention.” The alert also cites the Belarusian government’s support of Russia in its war against Ukraine and the increased presence of Russian troops in the country as ongoing concerns for U.S. travelers.

“Belarusian authorities have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with opposition parties and alleged participation in political demonstrations. U.S. citizens in the vicinity of demonstrations have been arrested. Some have been victims of harassment and/or mistreatment by Belarusian officials,” reads the existing travel advisory from the U.S. State Department, which lists Belarus as a Level 4 (“Do Not Travel”) nation.

The timing of the Aug. 21 advisory is related to actions taken by the Lithuanian government last week, when it closed two border crossings with Belarus at Sumsko and Tvereciaus. Concerns about the presence of Russian Wagner Group military forces in Belarus may have triggered the closures and stepped-up security.

Four border crossings remain open, but Lithuania has suggested that additional border closures are possible

As well, NATO members Latvia and Poland, who share west and northwest borders with Belarus, have stated they may consider border closures. Poland currently has one border crossing with Belarus open and Latvia has two crossings, and both countries have their own military troops stationed near their borders. Tensions between Poland and Belarus have been especially high throughout August, with Poland alleging that Belarusian military helicopters have invaded Polish air space.

The U.S. has previously advised its citizens against visiting Belarus. It first issued warnings in February 2022, coinciding with Russia’s then-imminent invasion of Ukraine, when family members of embassy officials were sent home. Most recently, the embassy told U.S. citizens in April to leave Belarus as soon as possible.

The most recent alert cautions those who do decide to travel to Belarus to have a “contingency plan in place that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.” It also suggests that travelers stay aware of breaking news for the region and regularly review personal security.