United States to suspend nonimmigrant visa operations in Russian Federation

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry during a press conference following a meeting of a delegation of the ministerial contact group of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Palesti

Russians will face problems getting US visas until bilateral relations between the two countries are normalised, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia (AmCham), Alexis Rodzianko has said. Visas will not be issued by the consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. He added that the US argument that its diplomatic workers can not issue the same number of visas with reduced staff disrespected the "capabilities and possibilities of the American diplomatic service".

The U.S. embassy said on its website that it would suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russian Federation on August 23 and restart them on September 1 "on a greatly reduced scale".

He promised that Moscow would not take out its anger on ordinary US citizens, Vestnik Kavkaza reports.

The Kremlin said it was a response to new USA anti-Russian sanctions.

Earlier in the day, the United States embassy announced that non-immigrant visa processing would be suspended on Wednesday, August 23.

In case the USA takes further unilateral steps to cut Russian diplomatic staff, retaliatory measures will follow, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned.

"Due to the Russian government-imposed cap on US diplomatic personnel in Russia, all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia will be suspended on August 23", said the USA embassy in Russia.

"Their logic is well known - the logic of those who organise "colour revolutions" - and it is the inertia of the Obama administration, pure and simple", he said. "Those who want to visit Russian Federation, should have the opportunity to do so".

"The Americans are trying to turn Russian citizens against the Foreign Ministry leadership and Russian authorities, but [U.S.] steps have meant people can't calmly travel to America".

"They have direct flights to the US, but, of course, few people will want to travel over the whole country to Moscow to get a visa first", Irina Tyurina, a spokesman for the Russian Tourism Industry Union told the Interfax news agency. "Trips to the United States don't affect millions of Russians", Klimov, another senator, added.

The order to expel U.S. diplomatic staff "calls into question Russia's seriousness about pursuing better relations", the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

The staffing cuts were already slowing down the visa processing times.

"The applicants feel uncomfortable, because they don't know what to do with tickets and hotels", the agency said.

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