The US has handed Moscow a list of 24 Russian diplomats that Washington wants to leave the country by September 3rd, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said in an interview published on Sunday.
“We received a list of twenty-four diplomats who are expected to leave the country before September 3, 2021. Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures,” Antonov told the National Interest.
In recent years, the US has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and implemented new restrictions on Russian diplomatic personnel. Antonov said recent unexplained visa restrictions have hampered Russia’s diplomatic mission in the US.
“It has gotten to the point where the US authorities cancel valid visas of spouses and children of our staff with no reasons provided. The widespread delays in renewing expired visas are also aimed at squeezing Russian diplomatic workers out of the country,” he said.
In April, the Biden administration slapped a wide range of sanctions on Russia and expelled 10 Russian diplomats. Moscow responded by expelling some US diplomats and setting restrictions on the number of local Russians that can work at US consulates.
“We have shown restraint for a long time but after another wave of aggressive sanctions by the United States in April we were obliged to take additional steps to equate conditions of work for US missions in Russia, including a prohibition to hire local personnel,” Antonov said. Last week, the US announced that it laid off 182 locals who worked at its diplomatic missions in Russia to comply with the new restrictions.
When asked about Antonov’s comments, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the ambassador’s characterization was “not accurate,” although he did not dispute the fact that the 24 diplomats were asked to leave. Price said the diplomats had the right to apply for visa extensions and that they were reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis.
Price also said the US has the right to respond to Russia’s restrictions on the staff at US diplomatic missions. “We reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions,” he said. Price’s comment leaves out the context that the Russian restriction was a response to hostile US actions.