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US visa service cancellations anger Russia

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Tensions between Russia and the USA hit a new level recently amid news that the US embassy in Moscow is cutting its staff and ending visa processing services for most Russians. The Kremlin has now accused Washington of ‘fuelling tension with unfriendly actions’. It’s understood that the US embassy in Moscow is set to cut staff numbers by 75%. 


Meanwhile, US visa processing services at the embassy will cease from May 12. Non-immigrant visas for non-diplomatic travel will be affected by the decision. The move to cancel visa services follows a new law introduced by Russia that restricts how many local staff can work at foreign diplomatic missions. 

This means that Russian nationals who are not diplomats or seeking a US green card will no longer be able to apply from within Russia to visit the USA for tourism or other purposes. Instead, they will be forced to apply from another country if they wish to travel to the US.


Visa still being issued

The Russian foreign ministry has highlighted that Russian consulates in the US are still issuing visas within 10 days, despite diplomatic cutbacks, and said that there was nothing to stop Washington from adding more staff at the embassy in Moscow by bringing in US nationals.

The foreign ministry in Russia said that the US diplomatic staff quota in the country stands at 455. However, it highlighted that there are only 280 accredited employees, which gives Washington the opportunity to increase its staff numbers.

Spokesperson for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, said: “The US embassy’s decision will have little practical impact because Russians have already been struggling to get US visas.”

“You know, here one has to look at the root cause of the tense situation that is developing in our bilateral relations. If you unravel the knot of unfriendly steps in the opposite direction, then it becomes obvious that the precursor to all of this is the unfriendly actions of the United States.”


Russia expected better

Peskov added that Russia had ‘expected better’ from the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency.

In recent years, Russian-US relations have plummeted, but plunged to new depths when Biden took office after the US President described Russian premier, Vladimir Putin, as a ‘killer’.

The US has imposed numerous sanctions on Russia in April after alleged malign activity, including interference in US elections last November and cyber hacking and ‘bullying’ neighboring Ukraine.

Russia retaliated with sanctions against the US, while rejecting criticism of its treatment of Alexei Navalny, who was jailed for criticizing the Kremlin.

A statement issued by the US embassy in Moscow said: “We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75%. Effective May 12, the US embassy in Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency US citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas.”

Responding to the US embassy’s statement, former Russian Presidential candidate, Ksenia Sobchak, said: “I have always been afraid of the ‘Iron Curtain’, only now it’s not being imposed by our side, but by the other side.” can help with US employment-based visas

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