The U.S. Embassy in Russia made a statement on Monday announcing that it would stop issuing nonimmigrant visas in Moscow for eight days starting Wednesday. The move will adversely affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists.
The Embassy will also stop issuing visas at its consulates elsewhere in Russia in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff.
The decision has been reached after the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered a cap on the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia. The Embassy also said that it would resume issuing visas in Moscow on Sept. 1. However, it also said that it will maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
Approximately a quarter of a million Russian tourists visited the U.S. last year, according to Russian tourism officials.
In the beginning of this month, Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or by two-thirds, heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow after the U.S. Congress approved sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and for its aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
A statement released by President Putin revealed that Moscow felt forced to reciprocate to the new package of sanctions against what he dismissed as “unfounded accusations,” but that it would hold off on further steps against the U.S.
Majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various US diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates are local employees.
A statement released by the U.S. Embassy on Monday revealed that Russia’s decision to cut its staff calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations. However, it insisted that it will able to maintain adequate staffing to handle the crucial aspects of the mission.
The decision to cut visa operations is aimed at making Russians feel discontent with their government, according to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was speaking in a news conference. Lavrov revealed that Russia will study the embassy’s announcement, adding that the Kremlin was not going to unleash its vengeance on the U.S. citizens.