Russia to traveling citizens: Beware of US 'hunt'

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to its citizens Thursday that U.S. intelligence is on the "hunt" for Russians abroad.

"Despite our calls to establish cooperation between the competent authorities of Russia and the United States [...], the US intelligence services continue to actually 'hunt' for Russians around the world," the statement said. "[W]e strongly recommend that Russian citizens, when planning their trips abroad, carefully weigh all the risks, especially if there are grounds for assuming claims from the American law enforcement agencies."

In the statement, the agency claimed that, in 2017 alone, more than 10 Russian citizens were arrested and extradited to U.S. territories, where they underwent questioning and direct threats to coerce them to admit to alleged guilt.

The travel warning comes a month after the U.S. State Department issued its own travel warning to citizens wishing to visit Russia, calling on them to "reconsider" due to "terrorism and harassment," specifically advising people not to travel to the north Caucasus, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, and Crimea.

RELATED: How the left and right see the Trump-Russia firestorm

How the left and right see the Trump-Russia firestorm
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How the left and right see the Trump-Russia firestorm
Trump's staunchest allies in the right-wing and far-right media sphere, like Fox News opinion commentator Sean Hannity, were largely opposed to the Russia probe and Mueller's appointment to lead it from the start.
Hannity has accused Mueller of "trying to take down President Trump" and has ramped up calls for the special counsel to resign over what he perceives as bias against Trump on Mueller's team.
He has also echoed Trump's view that the investigation is a "witch hunt" and asked that a special counsel be appointed to investigate former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her alleged Russia ties.
Hannity's remarks have largely been reinforced, and vice versa, by other far-right media outlets Breitbart News and Infowars, both of which have repeatedly questioned the objectivity of the Russia probe and called for Clinton to be investigated.
"What type of arrogant people openly cover up for Hillary, kill criminal investigations into her, and then go around and admit they're political and hate Trump?" Infowars founder Alex Jones said December 6.
Conservative commentators escalated their criticism of the Russia probe after it emerged that Mueller ousted an investigator over the summer for exchanging anti-Trump texts with a colleague.
Former FBI agents and federal prosecutors pushed back on the characterization, saying that it's perfectly acceptable for investigators to have political views, as long as they don't interfere with the investigation.
As the investigation began gaining more steam under Mueller, Trump's allies reportedly began urging him to fire the special counsel.
The majority of Republican lawmakers in Congress and mainstream conservatives respected the credibility of the Russia investigation and Mueller's appointment in the beginning.
"By having someone like Bob Mueller head the investigation assures the American people that there’s no undue influence, be it here or be it at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, or within the Justice Department or FBI," Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said in May.
"It would be a disaster" if Trump fired Mueller, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Politico in June. "There's no reason to fire Mueller. What's he done to be fired?"
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told Politico that firing Mueller, would "certainly be an extraordinarily unwise move."
Sen. John McCain of Arizona told Politico in June: "He's a very much trusted individual and had an outstanding record as head of the FBI."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has largely refrained from discussing the Russia probe, and House Speaker Paul Ryan said in November that Mueller should be allowed to complete the investigation.
Even some of Trump's most stalwart mainstream conservative allies praised Mueller. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said shortly after his appointment that he was a "superb choice" with "honesty and integrity."
Gingrich reversed his position in June, tweeting that Republicans were "delusional" if they believed Mueller would be fair. "Time to rethink," he added.
In recent weeks, several Republican lawmakers, including some who initially supported Mueller, have questioned whether the investigation is totally unbiased, particularly in light of the the investigators' anti-Trump texts.
"How can, with a straight face, can you say that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake?" Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio asked deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.
Lawmakers also intensified calls for a second special counsel to investigate alleged bias within the FBI and DOJ, as well as whether the Steele dossier — an explosive collection of memos about Trump's alleged Russia ties — was politically motivated.
U.S. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) walks into a Speaker's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Graham did not withdraw his support of Mueller, but said last week that it was "long past time" for a second special counsel to investigate Clinton, the Uranium One deal, the firm which produced the Steele dossier, and alleged bias in the FBI and DOJ.
Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have almost unanimously defended the investigation.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat representing Connecticut, said last week that it was "absolutely necessary" to pass legislation protecting Mueller from being fired.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who co-sponsored a bill with Graham that would protect Mueller, told Politico that there was a "sense of urgency to do this — not just for this moment in history, but to create more checks and balances within the system as a whole."
"We should make certain the integrity of the special counsel is protected," Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters last week.
Some Democratic lawmakers have gone a step further and suggested that Trump should be impeached.
Six Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment last month.
The lawmakers listed five reasons why Trump should be impeached, including his response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last August, and his decision to fire Comey in May.
"Given the magnitude of the constitutional crisis, there's no reason for delay," Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee told The Independent. Cohen was also one of the sponsors of the resolution.
Legal analysts have largely declined to offer judgment on whether Trump should be impeached, but most have underscored the importance of the Russia investigation and Mueller's independence.

It also comes four days after a U.S. Treasury report listed 114 politicians and 96 oligarchs in connection to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. A day after the report was released, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said "there will be sanctions that come out of this report."

Ahead of the report's release, the Kremlin accused the U.S. of using its publication to interfere with Russia's own presidential election, which will be held on March 18. At present, President Vladimir Putin stands virtually uncontested in the race, which, if he wins, will lead to his fourth term as the former Soviet nation's top politician.

Last August, President Donald Trump begrudgingly imposed sanctions against Russia in connection to the election interference investigation. At the time, Putin responded by ordering the U.S. to cut back hundreds of its staff in its embassy in Moscow.

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