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US Diplomatic Missions In Russia Suspend Nonimmigrant Visa Operations

US Diplomatic Missions In Russia Suspend Nonimmigrant Visa Operations

The wait time for visa appointments at the embassy in Moscow rose from 50 days to 70 days between August 2 and August 19.

Visa services from its consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg in the Urals, and Vladivostok in the far east will remain suspended indefinitely.

Beginning Wednesday there will be an eight-day suspension of non-immigrant visas from the embassy and its three consulates.

Andrei Klimov, the head of the Federation Council's committee on state sovereignty, told the Interfax news agency on Monday that, "If there are going to be infringements on the rights of our citizens, it is crucial to take reciprocal measures against USA citizens". However, the slow down in the Russian economy has forced many Russians to cancel this luxury.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected the US explanation that it was forced to suspend visas because of reduced staffing levels. "It's a well known logic. this is the logic of those who organize color revolutions".

The United States said yesterday it was scaling back its visa services in Russian Federation after Moscow ordered it to sharply cut its diplomatic staff in retaliation over new U.S. sanctions.

Staff reductions have already begun, according to USA embassy officials.

On Monday Russian officials said that the decision was the result of political wrangling in Washington and presented Moscow as the defender of the rights of ordinary citizens. "Those who want to visit Russian Federation, should have the opportunity to do so".

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"I just familiarized myself with this decision; only saw its summary in media reports".

Speaking to Russia's state-funded Sputnik radio, the deputy head of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee, Vladimir Dzhabarov, echoed Pushkov's point.

"They have direct flights to the USA, but, of course, few people will want to travel over the whole country to Moscow to get a visa first", Irina Tyurina, a spokesman for the Russian Tourism Industry Union told the Interfax news agency.

Embassy officials say the eight-day suspension of visa operations is a result of the Russian government's personnel cap imposed on the USA mission.

Business travellers would still be able to apply for a passport at the Moscow embassy, and tourists "can choose a different destination", Dzhabarov, the senator, said.

Russians received more than 190,000 non-immigrant visas to enter the United States in the 2016 fiscal year, according to State Department data, an 18 percent increase over the prior year.

"This scenario would be like all of America suddenly only having one office in Los Angeles to process (visa applications from) New York, Chicago, DC, Boston, and Miami".

"The applicants feel uncomfortable, because they don't know what to do with tickets and hotels", the agency said.

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