Russia 'Orders All Officials To Fly Home Any Relatives Living Abroad'
Politicians and high-ranking figures are said to have received a warning from president Vladimir Putin to bring their loved-ones home to the 'Motherland', according to local media.
It comes after Putin cancelled a planned visit to France amid a furious row over Moscow's role in the Syrian conflict and just days after it emerged the Kremlin had moved nuclear-capable missiles near to the Polish border.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has also warned that the world is at a 'dangerous point' due to rising tensions between Russia and the US.
But Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky is quoted by the Daily Star as saying: 'This is all part of the package of measures to prepare elites to some 'big war'.'
Relations between Russia and the US are at their lowest since the Cold War and have soured in recent days after Washington pulled the plug on Syria talks and accused Russia of hacking attacks.
Just days ago, it was reported that Russia had moved nuclear-capable missiles near to the Polish border as tensions escalated between the world’s largest nation and the West.
The Iskander missiles sent to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between Nato members Poland and Lithuania, are now within range of major Western cities including Berlin.
Polish officials – whose capital Warsaw is potentially threatened – have described the move as of the 'highest concern'.
RUSSIA TESTS BALLISTIC MISSILES AS TENSIONS BUILD
Russia's military conducted a series of intercontinental ballistic missile tests on Wednesday, the latest flexing of its muscles as tensions with the US spike over Syria.
Russian forces fired a nuclear-capable rocket from a Pacific Fleet submarine in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, state-run RIA Novosti reported.
A Topol missile was shot off from a submarine in the Barents Sea, and a third was launched from an inland site in the north-west of the vast country, Russian agencies reported.
The latest display of might by Moscow - which has been conducting regular military drills since ties with the West slumped in 2014 over Ukraine - comes as tensions have shot up in recent days.
Russia has pulled the plug on a series of deals with the US - including a symbolic disarmament pact between the two nuclear powers to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium - as Washington has halted talks on Syria.
The Kremlin has also moved an air defence missile system and missile cruisers to the war-ravaged country to bolster its forces there.
That comes as the West has accused Moscow of committing potential war crimes in its bombing of rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo in support of an assault by regime forces.
Washington has previously lashed out at Moscow for resorting to alleged "nuclear sabre-rattling" as East-West relations fell to the worst level since the Cold War following Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
Putin had been due in Paris on October 19 to inaugurate a spiritual centre at a new Russian Orthodox church near the Eiffel Tower, but Hollande had insisted his Russian counterpart also took part in talks with him about Syria.
The unprecedented cancellation of a visit so close to being finalised is a 'serious step... reminiscent of the Cold War', said Russian foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov.
'This is part of the broader escalation in the tensions between Russia and the West, and Russia and NATO,' he told AFP.
The Kremlin has also been angered over the banning of the Russian Paralympic team from the Rio Olympics amid claims of state-sponsored doping of its athletes.
But Russian officials have vigorously rejected accusations of meddling in the US presidential elections and dismissed allegations that Moscow was behind a series of recent hacks on US institutions.
Retired Russian Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky told the BBC: 'Of course there is a reaction. As far as Russia sees it, as Putin sees it, it is full-scale confrontation on all fronts. If you want a confrontation, you'll get one.
'But it won't be a confrontation that doesn't harm the interests of the United States. You want a confrontation, you'll get one everywhere.'
Earlier this week British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson waded into the row, calling for anti-war campaigners to protest outside the Russian embassy in London.
Johnson said the 'wells of outrage are growing exhausted' and anti-war groups were not expressing sufficient outrage at the conflict in Aleppo.
'Where is the Stop the War Coalition at the moment? Where are they?' he said during a parliamentary debate.