WASHINGTON, August 24. /TASS/. Washington is not taking any counter measures in response to Moscow’s decision cut the number of diplomatic and technical staff of the US mission in Russia, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a regular briefing for reporters she tried to present the case as if the US decision to suspend issue of nonimmigrant visas in Russia was not a counter-move.
"Let me make this clear. The United States is not retaliating against Russia in any way, shape or form. That is not taking place. That is not happening. We, regrettably, were forced to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We were forced as a result of that, to reduce the size of our offices. That includes the offices of consular affairs," she said reminding that the office of consular affairs is the office that adjudicates visas.
"Because we've had to reduce the number of people who are adjudicating visas, we had to put a pause on visa applications for Russians who want to come to the United States right now. That will pick back up again. They will be able to come to the United States again. However, once that does happen, it will be at a reduced pace," the spokeswoman said.
According to her, Russian media "went bonkers" saying that "the U.S. is retaliating against Russia."
"So, because we have fewer people to do that, our folks there have to prioritize Americans. They help with documentation, they help with drivers licenses and things of that sort. So Americans will come first when it comes to adjudicating visas," Nauert.
"This is not any kind of retaliation on Russia. But we regard this as regrettable. And Russia knew. They had to have anticipated that this would happen because they know the cut of staffing; they know what the consular officers do." she said. ·
On August 21, the embassy of the United States in Russia announced that it would suspend the procedure of issuing nonimmigrant visas in Russia as of August 23.
In Moscow this procedure will be resumed on September 1, the US Embassy in Russia said in a statement posted on its website.
"NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice," the statement said.
On July 28, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed to cut 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 engaged in US diplomatic and consular establishments will be reduced to 455 people.
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov that a total of 755 US diplomats and technical staff members are to leave Russia. In addition to that, Russia suspended the use of the warehouses and the property in Serebryany Bor in Moscow by the US Embassy as of August 1.