MOSCOW, April 19./TASS/. Russia and the United States may be left without direct flights because of the difficulties the crews of the Russian Aeroflot flagship carrier have with getting US visas, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
"We cannot even rule out now that our countries may be left without flight connection. Aeroflot, which is the only carrier operating regular flights between Russia and the US, may be forced to stop them, as the crews are facing growing difficulties with getting the American visa," the ministry said.
"It's true that the situation with the issuance of US visas to Russian citizens is getting dismal," the ministry said. "The official period of waiting for an interview [with consular officers], which Washington increased to 85 days last August, has been dragged out to 250 days, or eight months recently. In other words, applying for a visa becomes senseless now."
Moscow is astonished by the US officials’ striving to explain for the sharp restrictions on the issuance of visas to Russian citizens by a shortage of consular staffs and to apportion all blame for this to the Russia side.
"It’s not Russia in any way that’s to blame for the situation," the official said. "Last year, when Russia responded to numerous hostile escapades on the part of the US by demanding a reduction of [American] diplomatic presence to the level of parity [with the Russian diplomatic presence in the US - TASS], the decision to slash the personnel of the consular section was taken in Washington."
"When the reciprocal expulsion of [US] diplomats took place this March - and it came about as a reaction to the amassed expulsion of our diplomats we didn’t declare a single consular officer a persona non grata," the official said.
The US embassy in Moscow has no obstacles to the issuance of visas to Russian citizens, as the entire staff of the former US Consulate General in St Petersburg has been relocated to Moscow, an official at the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"The US has relocated the whole staff of its former Consulate General in St Petersburg to Moscow and that’s why they shouldn’t have any obstacles in the issuance of visas," he said, adding that Russia closed down the consulate in St Petersburg in response to the closure of the Russian Consulate General in Seattle.
"There are no obstacles to the issuance of visas to Russian citizens, given the will, which the US has a shortage of," the official said. On the whole, Moscow finds Washington’s zealous rupturing of ties between the American and Russian people, including with the aid of visa hindrances, to be highly regrettable.
"No kind of awkward explanations can justify or put gloss over this vicious line," the official said. "On our part, we’ll be glad to welcome an increasing number of the Americans eager to visit our country, since direct communications are the best instrument for building up mutual understanding and trust.".