The United States says it is slashing its visa services in Russia after Moscow cut the number of its diplomatic staff in retaliation over new US sanctions.
The US embassy in Russia said in a statement on Monday it would suspend issuing non-immigrant visas in Moscow for eight days from August 23.
It will also stop issuing visas at its consulates elsewhere in Russia in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff.
The embassy made the decision after the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered a cap on the number of US diplomatic personnel in Russia, it said in a statement.
The United States says it is slashing its visa services in Russia after Moscow cut the number of its diplomatic staff in retaliation over new US sanctions
It will resume issuing visas in Moscow on September 1 but maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
Nearly a quarter of a million Russian tourists visited the US last year, according to Russian tourism officials.
Earlier this month, Russia ordered the US to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or by two-thirds, heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow after the U.S. Congress approved sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and for its aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
President Putin said that Moscow felt forced to reciprocate to the new package of sanctions against what he dismissed as ‘unfounded accusations,’ but that it would hold off on further steps against the US.
The vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various US diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates are local employees.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (above on Monday) said the decision to cut visa operations was an attempt to stir up ill-feeling among ordinary Russians against the authorities
The US embassy said on Monday that Russia’s decision to cut its staff ‘calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations’.
It insisted however that it will able to maintain adequate staffing ‘to carry out essential elements of our mission.’
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference the decision to cut visa operations was an attempt to stir up ill-feeling among ordinary Russians against the authorities.
Asked about a possible Russian reaction, Lavrov said Russia will ‘study’ the embassy’s announcement, adding that unlike the US government Russia ‘is not going to take it out on US citizens’.
‘The American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities. It’s a well known logic… and this it the logic of those who organize color revolutions,’ Lavrov said.