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Moscow sees resumption of visa services by US as step in right direction

December 05, 11:34 UTC+3

Washington earlier promised to resume visa services as of December 11

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© Alexandra Mudrats/TASS

MOSCOW, December 5. /TASS/. Russia believes the United States’ promise to resume visa services in its Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok as of December 11 is "a step in the right direction," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"Residents of our regions had to apply to the US Embassy in Moscow since August, where the waiting period for compulsory interviews was likewise officially extended to 85 days. However, it was extremely difficult to register in an electronic queue even three months [before the interview]," the ministry said.

"The American visa procedure was very difficult and costly, considering the need for personal appearance at various stages, and now getting a visa is next to impossible," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.

However, Moscow regrets that the US will continue providing restricted visa services, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

"Of course, we welcome the renewal of the previous number of centers where American visas can be applied for," the ministry noted. "However, it is regrettable that, as the US embassy explained, visa services will still be provided in a restricted volume only. It turns out that many trips will be canceled in the future, including within business, scientific and just family and friendly ties," the ministry pointed out.

"It turns out that many trips will be further canceled, including within business, scientific and just family and friendly ties," the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out.

Russia hopes that Washington will revise its position on self-isolation and the restriction of trips by Russian citizens to the United States.

"Naturally, this is a matter of the US authorities how they issue their visas and whom they admit to their country," the ministry said.

"We are not going to force ourselves anywhere. But Washington’s actions in the visa sphere vividly demonstrate the attitude to contacts between people. Instead of expanding them, which our country is seeking to strengthen mutual understanding and trust, they are creating obstacles for the arrival of Russians as if they fear the spread of truthful information about Russia in America and want to protect their citizens against it and self-isolate themselves from us. We hope that this position held by Washington will be revised," the statement says.

"Let us recall that Russia proposed to the United States back in 2011 to give up visas for mutual short-term trips. There is still no answer," the ministry said.

Staff shortages

The Russian Foreign Ministry drew attention to the fact that the US Embassy "complains it is facing shortages of staff in response to our demand." "Firstly, that was done in response to the mass deportation of Russian diplomats from the United States and other hostile moves against Russia. Secondly, the decision to cut the visa operations staff was made in Washington. That was done deliberately creating difficulties for Russians and hoping to provoke public discontent," it stressed. 

"At some point, there were even mass delays in issuing visas to Aeroflot crews making regular flights to the US, which is fraught with their disruption and violates the bilateral air communication agreement," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted. "Russian athletes who failed to take part in international competitions likewise had serious problems, which looks like the deliberate discrimination of our athletes and contradicts the obligations assumed by the Americans when they volunteered to hold some competitions in their country, not to mention the plans of thousands of ordinary people that had been derailed."

After the US Congress voted for anti-Russian sanctions at the end of July, 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 meant that the total number of the staff at US diplomatic and consular establishments had to be reduced to 455 people. Later on, Russian President Vladimir Putin said 755 US diplomats and technical staff should leave Russia.

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