MOSCOW (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Friday it will sharply curtail its consular activities due to a Russian ban on hiring local residents to work there.
The embassy said in a statement that starting May 12, it will only provide emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of immigrant visas for such life-or-death emergencies.
It noted that non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease and it will stop offering routine notarial services, consular reports of birth abroad or passport renewal services for the foreseeable future.
Moscow has moved to ban the U.S. Embassy and consular offices from hiring Russian and third-country nationals as part of its retaliation to a set of new U.S. sanctions imposed over Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of federal agencies — activities Moscow has denied.
The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats out, targeted dozens of companies and people and imposed new curbs on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Russia quickly retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for U.S. Embassy operations.
The U.S. Embassy warned that the provision of emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia may also be “delayed or limited due to staff’s constrained ability to travel outside of Moscow.”
It said it was unable to answer specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas and strongly urged any U.S. citizens present in Russia with expired visas to depart before a June 15 deadline set by the Russian government.
“We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular workforce by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible,” the embassy said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on Facebook, charging that the decision to limit consular activities indicated that the U.S. diplomatic and consular activities are “archaic and inefficient.”
The ministry suggested that Washington expand its American staff to replace the local hires.