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The United States has announced it will once again process non-immigrant visas for Russian nationals at the consulates in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg. The services had been shut down after Russia ordered almost 800 U.S. diplomatic personal to leave the Russian Federation in response to U.S. sanctions. The U.S. embassy in Moscow began processing again on Sept 1 of this year.
“There are a number of acute problems, which, despite the positive announcement by the American side (on resuming nonimmigrant visa interviews in three US Consulates in Russia) have not been solved to date,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian state news agency TASS when asked whether Russia would come up with any reciprocal moves in response to the US’ positive decision. “I would say that there are more questions than answers there. We do not understand what this will mean in terms of schedules for considering visa applications,” he stressed.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Moscow sees “the Americans’ promise to resume visa operations at its Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok as of December 11 as a step in the right direction…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,” wrote TASS.
“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…We hope that Washington’s stance will be reconsidered,” the ministry said, adding that back in 2011 Russia offered the US to give up visas for mutual short-term trips, wrote TASS.
The loss of visa processing capability has impacted Russian citizens adversely as travel has become a favorite pastime of the Russian wealthy since the fall of the Soviet Union. As the Russian presidential election approaches, the Kremlin is sensitive to the issue and the social inconvenience it causes the population.