MOSCOW, August 1. /TASS/. Any links between reduction of US diplomatic personnel in Russia and issuance of US visas for Russians do not stand up to criticism, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday.
"Any links between reduction of personnel and visa issuance do not stand up to criticism as no one has ever expelled the Americans, no one has ever dictated or ordered them who is to go home and who is to stay," she wrote on her Facebook account.
"Hence, if Washington decides to reduce the number of personnel dealing with visa matters, it would be Washington’s sovereign, deliberate decision, not a forced decision by far. People should understand that."
"Immediately after Russia said it was imposing response measures on US diplomats and property, the Americans began to threaten Russian citizens with problems and delays in issuing US visas," she noted.
"Leaks from Washington explained that the reduction of US diplomatic personnel would adversely impact travel plans of Russian nationals."
The Russian diplomat noted that as of yet Moscow has not been officially informed about the exact, or even approximate, number of personnel of US diplomatic and consular missions in Russia.
"And it is important for the public rhetoric on visa-related matters they have unleashed," she stressed. "And if now they are telling us that personnel reduction would impact visa issuance procedures, it would be logical to announce exact or approximate figures and do it officially."
On July 28, the Russian foreign ministry demanded that by September 1 Washington reduce the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US embassy in Moscow and its consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, in order to match the number of Russian diplomatic personnel working in the United States. It means that the total number of US diplomatic personnel is to be cut to 455. In case the US takes further unilateral steps to cut Russian diplomatic staff, retaliatory measures will follow, the Russian foreign ministry warned.
In an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov, President Vladimir Putin said as many as 755 US diplomats are to leave Russia.
Apart from that, Russia closed access to the US embassy’s compound in Serebryany Bor and storage facilities in Moscow from August 1.