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USA scales back visa services in Russian Federation as Putin cuts its staff

USA scales back visa services in Russian Federation as Putin cuts its staff”

With a September 1 deadline to cut more than 750 staff positions looming, the embassy announced on Monday that it would halt all non-immigrant visa applications and interviews until September 1, and that afterward it would suspend visa interviews at the United States consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok - effectively forcing Russians across the vast country's 11 time zones to travel to Moscow for a USA visa.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The U.S. embassy in Russian Federation is suspending all "nonimmigrant visa operations" in Russian Federation as of August 23.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian Federation would not "take out its anger on American citizens".

The US embassy in Russian Federation said the Kremlin's move had forced it to rethink its visa operations and that it was suspending all non-immigrant visa operations across Russian Federation on August 23.

Visa interviews at the consulates are suspended "until further notice", according to the fact sheet.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference the decision to cut visa operations aims to make Russians feel discontent with their own government. "The NIV applicants who have their interviews canceled should call the number below to reschedule their interview at the US Embassy in Moscow for a later date", the embassy stated.

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"They have direct flights to the USA, but, of course, few people will want to travel over the whole country to Moscow to get a visa first", Irina Tyurina, a spokesman for the Russian Tourism Industry Union told the Interfax news agency.

"Russia is in conflict with forces who draw on sanctions, who want a confrontation with our country, but we don't have a conflict with American society", Alexei Pushkov, a Federation Council member and a frequent commentator on foreign affairs, was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The decision would come as a blow to Russian tourists, almost 250,000 of whom visited the US last year, according to The Associated Press.

The staffing cuts were already slowing down the visa processing times. This was itself a tit-for-tat response to US sanctions brought against Russian Federation for its alleged cyberhacking and military involvements in Ukraine and Syria.

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.

"Operations will resume in Moscow on September 1; visa operations at the US consulates will remain suspended indefinitely..."

They are also looking into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

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