Australians in Russia Warned to Brace for Possible ‘Anti-Western Sentiment’

Tourists at the Red Square in Moscow.

Australian travellers to Russia have been warned to brace for possible anti-western sentiment as the fallout continues from the poisoning of a former spy in the United Kingdom.

Last week, the foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop announced two Russian spies had been asked to leave Australia, in a show of solidarity with the UK over the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

London blames Moscow for the attack but Russia denies involvement. The Kremlin has since retaliated, announcing that two Australian diplomats have a week to leave Russia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now updated its travel advice for Russia.

“Due to heightened political tensions, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-western sentiment or harassment,” the travel advice said on Sunday.

“While the Australian government is not aware of any increased difficulties for Australians travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice.

“Remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments,” the travel advice said.

On Friday, Australia’s ambassador to Russia, Peter Tesch, was among the diplomats summoned to the Russian foreign ministry to be told of the expulsion of two Australian diplomats from Moscow. The diplomatic mission in Moscow has 10 staff.

In a joint statement on Saturday morning, Malcolm Turnbull and Bishop said there was no justification for Russia’s expulsions.

“This is a disappointing, although not unexpected, reaction by the Russian government to the decision of the Australian government to expel two Russian diplomats working as undeclared intelligence officers,” they said.

“Australia’s action was in concert with 28 other nations expelling a total of 153 Russian diplomats in an unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity with the United Kingdom.”

In total, Russia will expel 59 diplomats from 23 countries. It had already expelled 23 British and 60 American diplomats earlier in the week.