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MOSCOW, August 23. /TASS/. The suspension of nonimmigrant visa operations in Russia is "not about being vindictive," US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft said in an interview with TASS.
"It's not about being vindictive. It's about being able to do this properly," the diplomat said. "And we will start again on September the 1st." "And it's unfortunate but we don't have any choice because we have a lot of responsibilities here. The (Russian - TASS) government is requiring us to have fewer people to do them. It's as simple as that," he explained.
"This is simply because we've been told by the Foreign Ministry that we have to cut down our staff to 455. And so we're in the process of doing that right now," Tefft went on to say. He noted that visa issuance process involves not only employees of the Consular Section. "It's not just a question of visa officers. It's all the processing. It's the security," he stressed.
The ambassador noted that residents of Crimea "can apply for a visa here in Moscow," if they have Russian passports. He also confirmed that the US diplomatic mission in Moscow will stop issuing visas to Belarusian citizens after September 1. "They will have to go to another embassy like Warsaw or Kiev or some other to apply to get their visas," the diplomat added.
Tefft noted, however, that he does not think the decision to suspend visa operations in Russia will have an adverse effect on bilateral ties in culture, science and education. "I don't think so. I don't think it will. You know, this is a new world we're entering here. We're going to have to see how it goes," he said answering a question on the issue.
"And if there are special cases we'll take a look at those special cases to deal with them," the diplomat promised. "So I wouldn't make any big judgements about impacts until we have actually a chance to see how it works out once we've started down that road."
"You know, if there's some professor who needs to get to the United States for some urgent consultation or something, I think our people will find a way to get him a visa to do that," Tefft said. "That said, it's going to be very hard, because we just don't have enough people to do the job. We were already getting increasing numbers of Russians who wanted to go even before this."
"And the pure volume - it's literally numbers - the volume goes up and the Foreign Ministry has reduced the number of people we have to be able to service those people," the ambassador concluded.