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The UK government page on travel to Russia says the following:

Consular support is severely limited in parts of Russia due to the security situation and the size of the country.

What are the practical implications of this? Would it be primarily a problem in case your passport is lost? Or would it make a practical difference in case you're arrested in Russia? Having a consular employee come to the prison for a visit is nice I guess but is it really that helpful in practice?

Related: Consular assistance for Australians in Crimea and Is it safe for a foreigner to travel to Russia these days?

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    Given the travel advisories to NOT go to Russia, this belongs on Politics.SE
    – Peter M
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 3:03
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    @PeterM I’m personally flying to Russia in September and I’m not a Russian citizen. Not sure what this has to do with Politics? We’ve had questions here before about traveling to Somalia, which is definitely much more dangerous…
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 3:07
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    @PeterM people are free to follow or ignore some recommendations from some governments. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 3:14
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    @JonathanReez Because at the end of the day it will be political expediency that comes into play. Just ask Sarah Krivanek about a potential prisoner swap for Griner.
    – Peter M
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 3:19
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    This is more suited for Law Stack Exchange, since the legal basis is the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963 Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 5:19

2 Answers 2

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The practical implications are, that if you get in any kind of trouble that would usually ruin your vacations, they might now ruin your life.

You have been warned NOT to visit Russia and informed, that you might not receive necessary consular support in case you get into trouble. This means that:

If you get arrested, you can't count on the consulate providing you legal assistance, translation services, or negotiating with Russia to transfer you to the prison in your country in case you got sentenced. You might not get an international attention in case your process is not fair, which in current situation, would be unlikely to influence Russia in any way.

Note that it does not necessarily mean you being arrested because of political reason, for example to be used as hostage for exchange. It wouldn't actually be the worst scenario. The worst scenario would be to arrest you for doing some crime the police is unable or unwilling to solve and they just got for easy pray to get their credits. If you don't understand the language, you will be effectively left without any option for defense (in worst case, you won't get any attorney speaking your language and you won't be able to request one because of language barrier).

A more trivial case is being mugged. It's normally not a death sentence, but if you're stranded abroad, not knowing anyone, a consulate might be an only option to get necessary financial means to return home. Without that possibility, you might end up as homeless on the street.

Don't forget that warnings not to visit a particular country or evacuate ASAP might precede diplomatic measures that would put the citizens of the country in grave danger, like breaking diplomatic contacts or fully closing the borders. You might end up without having any possibility to leave the country, without any financial means and any possibility to find any job. Once again, welcome in the hotel under the bridge.

So if you want to go anyway, you should at least make sure you have a local contact that would be able to provide you financial and legal help (at least in the form of translation service) in case you get into trouble.

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    Thanks! This answer is much closer to what I was looking for than Mark's legalese answer above. Would be great if you could add historical examples of foreign travelers suffering from the lack of consular assistance.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 17:39
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Since helping and assisting their nationals is one of the many functions of a consulate, many people will assume that it exists and is functionable.

Article 5 CONSULAR FUNCTIONS

  • Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963

(e) helping and assisting nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, of the sending State ;

The lack of legal counsel, language assistance etc. given/offered from a person of trust (which a consulate official is assume to be) is definitely a drawback.

Article 36 COMMUNICATION AND CONTACT WITH NATIONALS OF THE SENDING STATE

  1. With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State :
    (a) consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State ;
    (b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall also be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this sub-paragraph;
    (c) consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgment. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.
  2. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended.
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    While correct in theory, the practical implications are predicated on the country in question fulfilling their obligations to these agreements.
    – Peter M
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 13:12
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    @PeterM More reason to heed the warnings when given for this reason. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 13:43
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    Does this present a big problem in practice? I.e. would you be unable to arrange for legal representation without the help of the consulate? Or perhaps there's specific examples of foreign travelers to Russia (or other countries with limited consular assistance) who have experienced demonstrable harm from the lack of support?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 16:32
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    @JonathanReez Even in ones own country, it is often difficult to find a reliable legal consul that one can trust (more so if you are in prison). In a foreign country, with language, customs barriers and a different legal system even more so. The fact that a consulate official may even be observing the proceedings is in itself is often an advantage. There are reasons why these conventions exist. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 19:25
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    @JonathanReez You asked for examples, I have given you a source where you can read for yourself what happen before the this convention existed. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 19:29

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