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MOSCOW, August 22./TASS/. The true reason behind restrictions in issuing US visas for Russian nationals is low efficiency in the work of US diplomatic missions and not the reduction in embassy staff, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
"American colleagues’ point that meeting our demand to restore the parity in the numbers of personnel of Russian and US foreign missions prevents the routine implementation of consular functions is not consistent with the reality," the ministry said.
"The intention is evident - to try to provoke displeasure of Russian nationals over the difficulties coming allegedly as a result of cut of personnel at US diplomatic and consular missions," it went on. "In real life, the problem lies in low efficiency in the activity of visa sections at the US missions in Russia," the ministry said.
To illustrate the point, the Foreign Ministry cited performance data from embassies of other countries in Moscow. "Last year, 16 Italian consular workers processed 478,000 visa applications, and five their Spanish colleagues issued 877,000 visas for Russian nationals, while the staff of the US consulates, which is massively bigger, could ‘cope’ only with about 186,000," the ministry pointed out.
The Foreign Ministry also advised Washington "not to mislead the general public" and not to use the reduction of personnel in Russia as a pretext for adding ‘irritants’ to the already thorny Russia-US relations.
On Monday, the US Embassy in Russia said it will suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations throughout the country as of August 23. The procedure will resume in Moscow on September 1, while the Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok will not issue visas.
On July 28, Moscow offered Washington to cap the number of diplomatic and technical staff working in the US Embassy to Moscow and the Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to the exact number of Russian diplomats and technical staff members working in the US before September 1. That means that the total number of the staff at US diplomatic and consular establishments will be reduced to 455 people.