On August 2nd, the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, condemned what he called “expulsions” of Moscow’s diplomats, saying the United States had become “persistent and creative in this business” by uniquely limiting Russians to three-year visas.
“We received a list of 24 diplomats who are expected to leave the country before September 3, 2021. Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has abruptly tightened visa-issuing procedures,” he told US monthly international affairs magazine The National Interest.
“It has gotten to the point where the U.S. authorities cancel valid visas of spouses and children of our staff with no reasons provided. The widespread delays in renewing expired visas are also aimed at squeezing Russian diplomatic workers out of the country. As a result, about sixty of my colleagues (130 together with family members) cannot return to their motherland even under urgent humanitarian circumstances,” Antonov said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price described the ambassador’s remarks as “inaccurate,” saying the Russians knew their visas would expire after three years and that they were free to apply for extensions.
He still reiterated the United States’ own complaint that Moscow had forced Washington to lay off nearly 200 locals at US diplomatic missions in Russia effective Sunday due to a new prohibition on hiring Russian or third-country staff.
“It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on the US Mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government,” Price told reporters.
“I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions,” he said, while denying that the three-year validity of visas was linked.
Thus, it wasn’t specifically a tit-for-tat, but it was tit-for-tat.
President Joe Biden’s administration on April 15th expelled 10 Russian diplomats over what Washington alleged was Russian involvement in election interference and a cyberattack.
Price described past actions as a “response to the Russian government’s harmful actions” but said the United States valued “open channels of communication.”
In April, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Moscow would be recommending the expulsion of 10 U.S. diplomats in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia. U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan temporarily returned to the U.S. following this move to speak with the Biden administration. Sullivan has since returned to Russia.
“We have shown restraint for a long time but after another wave of aggressive sanctions by the United States in April we were obliged to take additional steps to equate conditions of work for U.S. missions in Russia, including a prohibition to hire local personnel. It is certain that nobody benefits from such a situation. There is a need for solutions based on the principle of parity,” Antonov added.
Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June, with both leaders describing the encounter as business-like despite the range of differences between the two countries.
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