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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Warns Americans Of Attack in Petersburg

The U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg warned Americans on Friday that it had received a "credible" report that an unnamed group was planning a "violent attack on American citizens visiting or living in St. Petersburg within the next several weeks."

The statement said that Americans traveling by airplane or tour bus should exercise caution, and that Americans should avoid accepting gifts or packages and should watch their luggage.

William Showers, a spokesman for the U.S. Information Service at the St. Petersburg consulate, said the threat originated in St. Petersburg, but he declined to describe the nature of the threat.

The consulate has in the past issued general warnings advising Americans to avoid traveling to St. Petersburg, but this was the first time that it has announced a specific threat against U.S. citizens in the city.

"We view this as a threat against all Americans, not as a threat against a specific type of person," he said.

In response to a question as to whether the U.S. Embassy had contacted the Russian Interior Ministry to assist in the matter, Showers answered: "The embassy is taking all the appropriate steps ... Obviously, we can't act as a police force here."

The St. Petersburg office of the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the threat.

Although major airlines with routes between the United States and St. Petersburg said they had no plans to alter or cancel flights, the threat will almost certainly have an effect on the tourist industry in the city.

Olga Grigorevskaya, a spokeswoman for the luxury Grand Hotel Europe said the hotel administration had received word of the threat and would take added security measures.

"Our security is always very tight, but we will take extra precautions in light of this threat," she said.

Likewise, spokesmen for both the Hotel Pribaltiiskaya and the Hotel Astoria said they had received word of the threat and that security procedures would be stepped up.

Kim Lovelock of Barry Martin Travel, a London-based firm which handles a large number of connecting flights to Russia from New York and other U.S. cities, said the agency had been apprised of the threat but so far had not received any cancellations.

On April 15, 1994, the St. Petersburg Consulate sent a detailed report to the U.S. Congress in which it discouraged tourists from visiting the city because of a "deteriorating criminal situation."

That report contained a special caution to low-budget travelers which said, "Chances are your trip here could develop into your worst nightmare."

At the time, the report drew sharp criticism from local hoteliers and became one of the factors behind St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak's decision to ask President Boris Yeltsin for emergency crime-fighting powers. Sobchak at the time was preparing for the arrival of over 5,000 foreigners and tourists to attend last summer's Goodwill Games.

Part of the result of Sobchak's crime-fighting measures in the wake of the U.S. report was a revival of routine ***propusk*** checks, in which street patrolmen regularly asked people to show their documents. People who were found to be living in the city without being registered in the St. Petersburg region faced deportation from the oblast.

The threat comes just a few weeks after the FBI received a report that Islamic terrorists were planning a strike against JFK International Airport in New York. Airport security has been heightened there for several weeks.

Showers on Friday declined to specify whether the nature of the threat was criminal or political.

"All we can say at this moment is that, as far as we know, this is a threat that is limited to the St. Petersburg region," he said. "It doesn't involve other countries or other areas of the former Soviet Union."

Showers said the embassy and the consulate had used all the powers at their disposal to make certain the message was received by Americans living in the area.

"We have a 'warden' system, in which certain people in the community are responsible for passing messages along by word of mouth, and we've made use of that system in this case," he said.