The U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced today that as of May 12 it will cut its consular staff by 75% in view of the Russian government’s announcement that it will ban the local hiring of Russian and third-country nationals.
In a statement, the American legation indicated that the provision of consular services will be reduced, which will be limited to emergency assistance to U.S. citizens and the issuance of a “very limited number of immigrant visas for life and death cases.”
“Processing of non-immigrant visas for non-diplomatic travel will cease,” stressed the note published on the embassy’s website, which reported that routine notary services such as passport renewals or birth registrations will also not be provided.
In addition, it “strongly” recommended American citizens in Russia with expired visas to leave the country before June 15, the grace period given to all foreigners in an irregular situation established by the Russian Government due to the pandemic.
“We regret that the Russian government’s actions have forced us to reduce our consular staff by 75%, and we will strive to provide U.S. citizens with as many services as possible,” the statement concludes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the tensions between Moscow and Washington and the difficulties Russian citizens will now face in obtaining U.S. visas are rooted in the “unfriendly actions” of the United States.
Starting May 12, Russian citizens to obtain a nonimmigrant visa will have to apply for one at a U.S. consulate abroad.
“In the last year, and perhaps more, there were few Russians who were able to receive a visa at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. It was simply impossible to get one. So nothing changes,” Peskov said at his daily telephone press conference when commenting on the reduction of U.S. consular staff.
On the 23rd, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on “measures to counteract the unfriendly actions of foreign states,” including, among others, a ban on hiring local staff at their diplomatic representations in Russia.
On Wednesday, the head of the Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, pointed out that Russia does not practice hiring local people for its embassies and therefore can prohibit foreign legations accredited in the country from doing the same.
Lavrov announced that the Russian government is working on the elaboration of a “list of unfriendly countries,” which will be published soon.
According to the Izvestia newspaper, a dozen countries could be included in this list, among them the United States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, as well as the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Australia.