MOSCOW, February 15. /TASS/. Visa issues that arise between Moscow and Washington should be addressed at bilateral consultations on the consular theme, and Russia calls for their timely organization, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.
US visa restrictions are still disrupting many trips within business, cultural and scientific ties, she said. "The next consular consultations will study major issues in the visa aspect of relations between Russia and the US," the diplomat reported. "They were to be held at the end of last year, but the American side preferred to reschedule them."
"If there is a wish - and we can see it - to discuss these issues, why discuss them in print? We are ready to discuss them during the consultations," Zakharova stressed. "Let’s not drag it out [the consultations between Russia and the US - TASS] and tackle these issues," Zakharova added.
She pointed out that the Russian side did not specify to the American counterparts who they should dismiss following Moscow’s decision to cut down the US diplomatic staff in Russia. "The decision to massively dismiss employees who were working in the visa sector was taken by Americans themselves," she stressed. "This was done with a specific political purpose to set up obstacles on the way of receiving US visas to draw dissatisfaction from the society with the Russian authorities’ decision.
On December 29, 2016, Washington decided to expel 35 Russian diplomats. Moscow ordered to cut down the American diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 in response. The US embassy and consulates in Russia then stopped issuing non-immigrant visas to Russians. On September 1, this work renewed in the Moscow embassy and on December 11 in the consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
According to head of the US Embassy's Consular Section Laurence Tobey, Russians have received more than 26,000 visas since September 1, 2017. He noted that Russia’s decision to cut down the US embassy and consular staff resulted in a reduction of visa interviews.