US issues warning to Americans traveling to Olympics in Russia

The State Department issued a travel warning Friday to Americans planning to attend the Sochi winter Olympic games in Russia next month.

The warning comes after two suicide bombings occurred in December in the city of Volgograd, 400 miles from Sochi. More than 30 people were killed. 

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Americans who plan to attend the winter Olympics “should remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times,” the department said in the alert. They should also expect an increased police presence. 

“There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices,” the department said. “U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation.  When traveling, U.S. citizens may wish to provide a friend, family member, or coworker a copy of their itinerary.” 

Russia has reiterated that security would be tight at the Olympics as a result of the latest bombings. Some analysts warned those events may have been a pre-cursor to one that could be planned during the games. The White House has also expressed that it would assist with security. 

Americans should avoid large crowds in areas that don’t have sufficient security measures, the alert warned.

The Obama administration also warned in the alert that Americans should be aware of Russia’s ban on propaganda that promotes homosexuality.

“The U.S. government understands that this law applies to both Russian citizens and foreigners in Russia. Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation,” according to the State Department. 

President Obama is sending a sharp signal to Russia by sending a few gay rights activists to the games as part of the American delegation: tennis champion Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow. None of Obama's Cabinet members, nor Obama himself, will attend. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said gay athletes are welcome to participate in the games, scheduled from Feb. 7 to March 16.