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Russian Foreign Ministry Accuses U.S. Embassy in Moscow of Publicizing Unsanctioned Rally

RUSSIA -- Police officers detain a protestor, during an unsanctioned rally in the center of Moscow, August 3, 2019
Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman

“A division of the State Department of the United States -- and, directly, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow -- published the itinerary of the so-called walk that lay ahead on Saturday.”

The embassy published a warning to U.S. citizens to avoid the demonstration.


During an interview on the political talk show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the U.S. State Department of encouraging Russians to attend an unsanctioned protest in Moscow that took place the previous day. As “proof,” she cited an item published on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s website, which gave the route of the march as well as its beginning and end times.

​In fact, the embassy bulletin was a warning to U.S. citizens to avoid that area of Moscow during the march. After giving the basic details of the event, it stated:

“The protest rally has not been sanctioned by authorities.Given the possible size of the protest and the large police presence, U.S. citizens should avoid the protest route.”

Later, Zakharova acknowledged that the statement told U.S. citizens to avoid the march, but, overall, her comments clearly implied that the warning was simply a cover, whose real purpose was to incite Muscovites to attend the protest in favor of fair municipal elections. In any case, there was nothing unusual about the embassy’s warning to U.S. citizens in the Russian capital.

Russian Foreign Ministry Accuses U.S. Embassy in Moscow of Publicizing Unsanctioned Rally
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0:00 0:01:18 0:00 video fact check by Nik Yarst.

For example, the U.S. Embassy in Paris issued three “demonstration warnings” in the spring of 2019. One such warning from April 30 read:

“May Day demonstration will take place on May 1, 2019 in Paris and other major cities in France. The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vests) are expected to join labor union marches across the country. Previous ‘Yellow Vest’ demonstrations have become violent with smaller groups splitting from the main demonstration and causing serious damage to private and public property. Police response has included water cannons, rubber bullets, and/or tear gas. Demonstrations may cause traffic disruptions and impact public transportation throughout France, including significant delays traveling between downtown Paris and the major airports (Charles de Gaulle Roissy and Orly) and access to rail stations. Disruptions to public services and closures of various sites usually open to the public (businesses, museums, tourist attractions) have taken place.”

The U.S. State Department’s April 2019 travel advisory for France puts it at Level 2 -- meaning “Exercise Increased Caution” – due to “terrorism and civil unrest.”

“Demonstrations in Paris and other major cities continue in France and are expected to continue in the coming weeks,” the travel advisory stated.

“Property damage, including looting and arson, in populated tourist areas has occurred with reckless disregard for public safety. Police have responded with water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas. The U.S. Embassy is advising official U.S. government travelers to avoid travel to Paris and other major cities in France on the weekends.”

Like the Moscow warning this week, the U.S. State Department, in issuing these warning to U.S. citizens in the French capital during the Yellow Vests protests, was advising them to avoid the scene.

Update: On Friday, August 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry protested the routine warning by the U.S. Embassy for U.S. citizens, that was the subject of this fact check.

The U.S. State Department dismissed the Russian objection, in a statement on background, emphasizing that the notice was a "Safety Alert," not meant to interfere with Russian internal affairs.

"Absolutely not. Our Embassies and Consulates overseas routinely release Alerts as needed to notify U.S. citizens of specific events and changes happening locally," the statement said.

When the U.S. Embassy in Paris warned of protests in March, the announcement included specific locations where protesters were gathering and the routes they would take.