The U.S. embassy in Moscow is limiting the consular services it provides after Russia placed restrictions on the number of local staff it could hire, marking the latest point of tension in relations between Washington and Moscow, The Hill reports.
The restriction comes after President Vladimir Putin signed a law curtailing the number of Russians and third country nationals who could work at foreign diplomatic missions and ordering the Russian government to compile a list of “unfriendly” nations who would be slapped with the restrictions.
“Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas,” the embassy said in a statement.
“These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.
“Embassy Moscow will not offer routine notarial services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, or renewal passport services for the foreseeable future.e We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible,” it added.
The Kremlin panned the embassy’s announcement, saying the U.S. was behind the ongoing tensions between the two countries.
“If you unravel the knot of unfriendly steps in the opposite direction, then it becomes obvious that the precursor to all of this is the unfriendly actions of the United States,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday, according to Reuters.
The U.S. this month slapped a slate of sanctions on Russia over malign behavior, including its cyber espionage operations, election meddling and hostile actions toward Ukraine. The Biden administration has also pressured the Kremlin over the treatment of detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Russia responded by expelling several diplomats, and Putin warned against pushing Moscow, saying anyone who crosses a “red line” will be met with a harsh response.
“If someone interprets our good intentions as indifference or weakness and is willing to cross a red line, they should know that Russia’s response would be asymmetric, fast and tough,” Putin said. “I hope that no one will think of crossing the red line with Russia, for every single case we will determine where that red line is.”