U.S., Russia in fresh diplomatic spat
Under pressure from the Russian government, the U.S. embassy in Moscow is reducing the issuance of visas and other services largely to emergencies.
Consular work would be reduced by 75 per cent overall, the mission announced on Friday. For example, visas for simple travel to the U.S will no longer be issued. Routine services for U.S. citizens would also have to be reduced.
U.S. citizens whose visas for Russia are expiring have been asked to leave the country by June 15.
“We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular workforce by 75 per cent, and will endeavour to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible,” it said on its website.
The reason for this unprecedented move is a Russian government ban on the future employment of staff that do not hold U.S. passports.
In Moscow, many foreign embassies hire Russian citizens to keep their costs down.
For many Russians, working in Western embassies is, in turn, attractive because they often earn much better there than on the Russian labour market.
The spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, had justified the ban with the possible recruitment of Russian citizens for the secret services of other states.
The Czech embassy is also affected.
President Vladimir Putin has also signed a decree to draw up a list of unfriendly states.
The Foreign Ministry intends to publish the list shortly. The countries on the list face punitive measures.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had imposed the recruitment ban in response to new U.S. punitive measures.
In April, the U.S. expelled 10 Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions as punishment for interference in the 2020 presidential election and for hacker attacks.
Russia rejected the accusations and also expelled U.S. diplomats in a tit-for-tat move.
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