US to Curb Issuance of Non-Immigrant Visas in Russia
The US embassy in Moscow on Monday blamed the planned changes on the Russian government’s move to force US diplomatic missions in the country to cut staff by almost two-thirds, reported The Financial Times.
Moscow’s decision, announced on July 28, was a political response to a new law codifying existing anti-Russian sanctions and adding new restrictions, but it was designed to mirror restrictions slapped on Russia’s diplomatic missions in the US in late December by the Obama administration as a punishment for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US election.
Moscow’s counter-measures call for the US to reduce the total number of employees at its missions in Russia by 755 to 455, on par with numbers at Russia’s diplomatic missions in the US, by September 1. Russian and western diplomats have noted that the demanded cuts can be achieved at least partly by laying off Russian administrative and technical staff and does not call for the expulsion of hundreds of American diplomats. However, the necessary drastic reduction in staff is expected to slow down the embassy’s work and lead to a reduction in some practical bilateral exchanges.
“Russia’s decision to reduce the United States’ diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations,” the US embassy in Moscow said in a statement on its website on Monday. As part of the suspension of non-immigrant visa operations, interviews already set up for Russians’ visa applications between Wednesday and the end of the month will be cancelled.
After the resumption of services, only the embassy in Moscow will take and process applications and issue visas, a change likely to prevent many Russian citizens from far-flung parts of the country from traveling to the US.
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