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Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks at the annual Tavrida National Youth Educational Forum at Baikalskaya Spit in Stereguscheye village, Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The US 'indefinitely' suspended visa services at three of its four Russian consulates


The United States on Monday announced it is scaling back its visa services in Russia after sharp cuts to its diplomatic staff there, according to Reuters.

Reuters reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin last month ordered Washington, D.C., to cut 755 people from America’s diplomatic and technical staff by Sept. 1.

“Capacity for interviews in the future will be greatly reduced because we have had to greatly reduce our staffing levels to comply with the Russian government’s requirements,” the embassy told applicants in a message on its website.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia said that it is suspending all non-immigrant visa operations across Russia on Wednesday.

Services will resume on Sept. 1, it continued, but would be offered “on a greatly reduced scale” for applicants.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia added that it would be canceling an unspecified number of scheduled appointments and asking applicants to reschedule them instead.

Reuters reported that the decision means Russian citizens hoping to visit the U.S. for tourism will no longer be able to apply via American consulates outside Moscow.

The U.S. has consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, according to Reuters, leaving potential visa applicants with only a consulate in Moscow.

Russia is the world’s largest country by territory, meaning the visa application process may now prove a major logistical challenge for people there.

“Visa operations at the U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely,” the U.S. Embassy there said. “We will operate at reduced capacity for as long as our staffing levels are reduced.”

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said earlier this month that the U.S. issued about 150,000 visas to Russian citizens in 2016.

Putin’s order was in reaction to new U.S. sanctions against Russia that President Trump reluctantly signed into law last month.

The Russian leader’s move reduced the number of American diplomatic and technical staff in his nation by roughly 60 percent.

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