Earlier this summer, as part of an escalating series of diplomatic actions, Russia dismissed 755 U.S. State Department employees to match the number of employees in the Russian foreign service in the U.S. Days later, President Trump finally signed a new sanctions bill against Russia, and it was reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would soon have an official response to the diplomatic expulsion.
The U.S. announced Monday that in order to comply with the reduction of staff, they would temporarily stop issuing nonimmigrant visas and also slowdown visa operations in Russia, shifting all visa work to the embassy in Moscow:
“Russia’s decision to reduce the United States’ diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations,” U.S. Mission to Russia, the collective name for American diplomatic and government staff in Russia, said in a statement issued on the embassy’s website. “We will maintain sufficient staff to carry out essential elements of our mission.”
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded by saying the move was meant to “provoke discontent of Russian citizens against the actions of the Russian government,” but he said a “mirror” move would probably not be imposed by Russia. Lavrov said Russia would do something but “won’t take it out on American citizens.”
The U.S. issued about 190,000 nonimmigrant visas in Russia in 2016 with close to 140,000 being issued at the Moscow embassy. In that time frame, Russia issued about 95,000 nonimmigrant visas, the bulk of which were for tourists.
(Via Washington Post)