US Temporarily Halts Nonimmigrant Visas For Russians

22 August, 2017, 21:30 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Sameh Shoukry

Russian and western diplomats have noted that the demanded cuts can be achieved at least partly by laying off Russian administrative and technical staff and does not call for the expulsion of hundreds of American diplomats.

The US embassy to Russian Federation also condemned Moscow's decision on the diplomatic staff reduction, saying that it casts doubt on the will to improve the bilateral relations. The promoters of this decision are trying to spark off displeasure of Russians with its Government.

The embassy statement Monday indicated that a reduction of staff would limit its consular services capacity to process visa applications.

The U.S. will suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russian Federation on Wednesday, its embassy in Moscow said on Monday.

The state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Tuesday reported that "a long line of people who came for interviews or to pick up their visas" had formed in front of the U.S. Embassy on Novinsky Bulvar.

"Visa operations at the U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely", the embassy said.

The visa freeze, which also sparked anxiety that Russia could retaliate, is the latest escalation between Moscow and Washington going back to the alleged Russian hacking campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The staffing cuts were already slowing down the visa processing times. Interview schedules are typically backed up by 45 days or more.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Russia will "study" the embassy's announcement for a potential response but likely will not "take it out on US citizens", according to the Associated Press.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has censured a USA decision to reduce its visa services in Russian Federation, saying the measure brings to mind the logic of the masterminds of "color revolutions".

It said it would give priority to the United Nations, worldwide organizations with offices in the United States, and bilateral missions.

There has been a diplomatic freeze between Russian Federation and the United States since Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. Senior Russian lawmakers on Monday suggested a parallel response that could impact Americans seeking Russian visas. Slutsky is the chairman of the Duma's worldwide affairs committee.

The US Embassy in Russia's decision to discontinue issuing visas to citizens of Belarus carries clear political undertones, Lavrov added. He cautioned against a response that would similarly reduce applications of American applicants for Russian visas, saying that the Russian response would not be meant to punish American citizens.

Lavrov said the ministry was studying the matter and would have a response at a later date.

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