On Friday, the US embassy in Moscow announced that it was cutting consular services and reducing its staff by 75 percent.
As part of the cutbacks, the embassy will no longer process non-immigrant visas for Russians. So any Russian citizens that want to travel to the US that aren’t seeking a green card would have to obtain a tourist visa through a third country.
The announcement came after Russia put limits on the amount of staff the US embassy could hire locally, a response to recent US sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Russia’s foreign ministry pointed out that the Russian embassy in the US was still issuing visas to American citizens within 10 days despite limits they have had to deal with.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US move won’t change much since the embassy has not been processing many visas lately. “I think that only a handful of Russian citizens were able to obtain a visa at the US Embassy in Moscow during the last year, or maybe a bit more. These visas were next to impossible to get. So, nothing will change on this score,” he said.
Peskov also blamed actions from Washington for straining US-Russia relations. “If we rewind this thread of unfriendly steps, it would become apparent, that it all was caused by the unfriendly actions of the US,” he said.
The Biden administration has taken an incredibly hostile approach to Russia. Besides expelling diplomats and imposing sanctions, the US has expressed “unwavering” support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia. The rhetoric has also been harsh, with President Biden agreeing in an interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer” who has “no soul.”