U.S. to suspend visa operations in Russian Federation

Aug 22, 2017, 00:45
U.S. to suspend visa operations in Russian Federation

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said United States diplomatic institutions in Russia must cut more than 700 staff members by September, in a measure widely seen as retaliation for the USA strengthening its sanctions against Russia.

The suspension is in response to Russian Federation ordering the U.S.to cut its embassy staff by two-thirds.

US nonimmigrant visas cover several categories of travelers, including businesspeople, students, medical travelers and journalists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond after a closer examination of the US announcement.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia on Monday announced it would temporarily suspend processing all non-immigrant visa applications for Russian citizens beginning Aug 23. 1 but remain suspended at its consulates in Yekaterinburg and Vladisvostok indefinitely.

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In remarks to the press, Lavrov considered such an action as an attempt by Washington to cause dissatisfaction in the Russian population and assured that the Kremlin's response will not affect U.S. citizens.

"I can say only one thing - we won't take it out on American citizens,"the minister added". The United States was ranked 25th of countries to which Russians citizens traveled in the first quarter or 2017, former Soviet Union republics notwithstanding.

It added that in September it was planning to issue a block of visa appointments to students studying in the U.S.

Under the new procedures, Russians in or near Moscow will have to wait as long as six months for a US visa.

"Russia's decision to reduce the United States' diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia's seriousness about pursuing better relations".

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Even before the US announcement, consular work at the USA mission in Russian Federation had slowed significantly, according to daily data published by the State Department and tracked by Reuters.

Earlier this month, Russia ordered the U.S.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.

U.S. Congressional committees and a special counsel are investigating the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian Federation used hacking and other methods to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton in last November's election. Operations will resume September 1 on a "greatly reduced scale", but interviews will be conducted only at the embassy and not at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok.

They are also looking into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

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