As worsening relations have left the embassies and consulates of both the United States and Russia badly understaffed and unable to provide routine services, the US will expel at least 54 more Russian diplomats next year, Russia’s ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said.
A group of 27 Russian diplomats is scheduled to leave the US with their families by January 30 with an additional 27 expected to leave on June 30.
Stressing that Russian diplomats in the US are being kicked out, Antonov underlined their families are being intentionally separated like in some cases when accreditation was taken away from spouses of a number of diplomats and their children were denied visas.
All of this is happening, according to the ambassador, against the backdrop of Americans’ comments about how carefully the US cherishes family traditions.
He also pointed that the problem of visas for their diplomats in the US has not yet been solved, forcing the mission to face a serious staff shortage.
According to a Reuters tally, more than 100 Russian diplomats and their families had been expelled from the US since 2016, following Washington’s accusations of Moscow’s interference in the presidential elections that have severely battered US-Russian ties.
Commenting on the State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter’s statement that the departure of 55 Russian diplomats from the US cannot be regarded as expulsion or a punitive measure, Antonov underscored that the ‘cunning’ US State Department is deliberately distorting facts trying to delude the international public about the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
He noted that the US warning that in case of refusal to fulfill this request, Russian employees will have their immunity and other diplomatic privileges is a de facto expulsion.
This is on top of the three-year limit on long-term assignments for employees of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and Russian Consulates General in New York and Houston the US State Department unilaterally introduced in December 2020 although other diplomatic missions have a five-year tour limit.
Due to this, Antonov accused the US of trying to limit the Russian Federation’s sovereign right to take staffing decisions with respect to its diplomatic missions at its own discretion.
Soon after Antonov’s statement, one of Moscow’s top diplomats has blasted the US decision and warned it will be met with retaliation.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stressed in an interview with RIA Novosti on Monday that the US refusal to allow Russian diplomats’ families to remain is effectively forcing Moscow’s representatives out of the country and Kremlin will respond to that.
Following several rounds of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, Russia has some 230 people in the US, excluding those in the Moscow’s mission in the UN in New York, while the United States employs around 120 people at its Russian missions.