US Embassy in Moscow cuts visa services and warns Americans with expired visa to leave before June 15 deadline in further deterioration in relations with Russia
- Last week, Russia imposed restrictions on foreign missions hiring local staff
- As a result, the US Embassy in Moscow has been forced to cut consular services
- From May 12, non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will stop
- Embassy will only cover emergency U.S. citizen services and limited visas
- The news comes as Russia-U.S. ties are at a post-Cold War low
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has announced that it will cut consular services and staff after Russia imposed restrictions on foreign diplomatic missions.
The Embassy said in a statement that starting from May 12, it will reduce consular services offered to only include emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of immigrant visas such as life-or-death emergencies.
It noted that non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease and it will stop offering routine notarial services, consular reports of birth abroad or passport renewal services for the foreseeable future.
‘Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas,’ the embassy said in a statement published on its website.
‘Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.’ it added, and ‘strongly’ urged US citizens in Russia with an expired visa to leave the country before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government.
The news comes as Russia-U.S. ties are at a post-Cold War low.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow (pictured) has announced that it will cut consular services and staff after Russia imposed restrictions on foreign diplomatic missions
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law to limit the number of local staff working at foreign diplomatic missions and other agencies.
It came in retaliation to a set of new U.S. sanctions imposed over Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of federal agencies – activities Moscow has denied.
The new law also ordered the government to draw up a list of ‘unfriendly’ states that will be subject to the restrictions.
The embassy said its decision to cut the services offered by the consulate was forced by Russia’s newly imposed restrictions.
‘We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75% and will endeavor to offer to US citizens as many services as possible,’ The Embassy statement said.
It also said that the provision of emergency services in Russia may be delayed or limited because the ability of staff to travel outside Russia had been constrained.
The Embassy also urged U.S. citizens in Russia to heed a June 15 deadline set by the Russian government when a temporary extension to visas, residence permits and immigration documents expires.
Tensions between Russia and Western countries have been rising over the military build-up on the country’s border with Ukraine, the jailing of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, and allegations of covert operations.
Washington and European countries have expelled a number of Russian diplomats in recent months, with Moscow responding with expulsions of its own.
Earlier this month, the U.S. kicked 10 Russian diplomats out of the country in connection with the ‘SolarWinds’ cyber attacks against government agencies, as well as for meddling in the 2020 presidential elections.
The massive Russian hacking campaign – familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach -targeted at least nine vital federal agencies, including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments. The scale of the hack is still being determined.
Russia quickly retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for U.S. Embassy operations.
The Kremlin said the new measures imposed by the U.S. would also reduce the chances of a summit between President Joe Biden and Putin taking place.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured on Tuesday) signed a law to limit the number of local staff working at foreign diplomatic missions and other agencies
The U.S. has also imposed a number of crushing sanctions on Russian entities, with Biden taking a tough stance against the country.
An executive order expanded an existing ban on US banks trading in Russian government debt, and according to the Washington Post, imposed sanctions on six Russian companies that support Russian spy services’ cyber hacking operations.
Earlier in April, the Czech Republic ordered most of the Russian staff at the Prague embassy after the country accused Russian intelligence officers of being behind a 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot, killing two Czech citizens.
In solidarity with the Czech Republic, former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also ordered several Russian diplomats to leave.
In a tit-for-tat response, Moscow on Wednesday ordered seven diplomats from the countries to leave the country, having previously expelled a number of Czech Diplomats.
Source: Read Full Article