On Monday, the US State Department issued a warning for US citizens to leave Russia immediately, saying that dual nationals could be conscripted to serve in the war in Ukraine.
The war has killed or injured 220,000 people on both sides in nearly a year of fighting.
It’s one of several travel warnings the US has issued for both Ukraine and Russia, but the claim that Americans could be drafted was strongly rejected by the Russian government. In November, Russian state media news outlet Tass reported that President Vladimir Putin had extended conscription to dual nationals and citizens with residency status abroad.
The US State Department has also issued several travel advisories in recent months, warning US citizens to "not travel to Ukraine due to active armed conflict. Those US citizens in Ukraine should depart if it is safe to do so”.
Have US dual national citizens been conscripted by Russia?
To date, no dual national US citizens in Russia are reported to have been conscripted. This is despite the fact that Russia has drafted hundreds of thousands of men to fight in the conflict and is now mobilising further waves of soldiers as a new major offensive begins.
However, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington claims that 4,000 US citizens have volunteered to fight in the country’s foreign fighter brigades, part of a force called the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine. As of January 2023, six American citizens are thought to have been killed fighting on the side of Ukraine.
In September, two US war veterans captured by Russia in June were released as part of a prisoner exchange, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander John-Robert Drueke.
How many US citizens are in Russia?
The US State Department told the BBC on Monday that it did not track numbers of US citizens abroad, so there are currently no reliable estimates. There are, however, some high-profile dual nationals residing in Russia.
In September, US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned that prominent whistle blower Edward Snowden could be drafted to fight in Ukraine.
Mr Snowden fled to Russia in 2013 and claimed asylum after leaking a vast trove of documents exposing US domestic surveillance of citizens on a massive scale by the National Security Agency. Mr Price was reiterating the US position that Mr Snowden “must return to face justice” and that, “as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in Russia's war in Ukraine". Mr Snowden was granted Russian citizenship in September 2022.
Another prominent American supporter of Russia is Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, who was given Russian citizenship in 2016.
The star of movies including Under Siege and Hard to Kill is unlikely to face conscription, however, having been given the title of special representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation for Humanitarian Relations between Russia and the US.
He reportedly visited Russian-held parts of Ukraine in August to condemn the US supply of precision-guided missiles to Ukrainian forces.