USA to halt issuance of non-immigrant visas in Russian Federation

Sameh Shoukry

Sameh Shoukry

MOSCOW-The U.S.is sharply cutting back visa services in Russian Federation after the Kremlin responded to fresh U.S. sanctions by capping the number of U.S. diplomats in the country.

President Vladimir Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the US Congress which President Donald Trump reluctantly signed into law, last month ordered Washington to cut diplomatic and technical staff in Russian Federation by 755 people, or by about 60 percent, by Sept 1.

Earlier Russian citizens could apply for tourist visas in local US consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, but the move ends this practice, forcing applicants to go to the Russian capital.

As many as 200,000 Russians apply for non-immigrant visas to the US annually. All existing visa appointments with the USA embassies in Russian Federation have been canceled.

Putin said the staff reduction will bring the USA total in line with the number of Russian embassy staff in the United States.

The latest diplomatic maneuver by the United States sets the stage for a response from the Russian government which can be framed as unjustifiably aggressive and deployed as a justification for a further escalation of tensions between the world's two largest nuclear-armed powers. The move was in response to new sanctions against Russian Federation imposed by the USA over Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The mission announced that it would recommence services in Moscow on September 1, but visa operations at all other US consular locations in Russian Federation would remain on hold. That means that the total number of the staff engaged in United States diplomatic and consular establishments will be reduced to 455 people.

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The embassy said it would reschedule non-immigrant visa appointments for those Belarusians who have paid the application fee, and encouraged those who have not to reschedule appointments at U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Kiev or Vilnius.

Russian Federation had already dismissed allegations of Moscow's interference in the U.S. election and the Ukrainian conflict over Crimea.

"Visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale", the U.S. Embassy said.

"The legitimate rights of our citizens must be defended, so if there are any infringements on our citizens, then mirror measures should also be introduced against the citizens of the United States", Klimov said on Monday, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. The US mission advised them to "schedule NIV appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw; the U.S. Embassy in [Kiev]; or the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius". Senior Russian lawmakers on Monday suggested a parallel response that could impact Americans seeking Russian visas.

21 de agosto de 2017, 12:10Moscow, Aug 21 (Prensa Latina) The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said today that his government will take the necessary measures after checking the U.S. decision to restrict the visa issuing process to Russian citizens.

"It is a well-known logic", Lavrov said, answering a question at a joint press conference in Moscow with his Egyptian counterpart. "I can say only one thing - we won't take it out on American citizens".

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