Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has commented upon the statement by State Department spokesman Ned Price about the ban on hiring local residents and third-country citizens to work at the American embassy in Moscow, which allegedly disturbs their diplomatic mission's routine operation. "If you listen to Mr. Price, you can get an impression that Russia is to blame for the difficulties in functioning of diplomatic missions and that the problems came up just yesterday. We regret that the colleague was not prepared for such a serious conversation with journalists and misled them about the real state of affairs," Antonov said.
According to him, Moscow has repeatedly offered Washington to abandon restrictions on the work of diplomats, but the American side keeps stiffening the diplomatic activity of Russians with inexplicable pertinacity. "This includes, among other things, the seizure of diplomatic property and expulsions of staff – when people were given only 72 hours to leave the country... Moreover, working conditions of our staff are getting harder," the ambassador said.
Besides, the US administration "has gotten to the point where the U.S. authorities cancel valid visas of spouses and children of our staff with no reasons provided", Antonov pointed out. The current situation affects about 140 Russians, with two dozen diplomats unable to get visas in Moscow. "Over the recent days, we have issued 22 visas to American citizens assigned to the US Embassy in Moscow. In response, we have only received a visa extension for our Minister-Counselor," the Russian ambassador to Washington stated. The Russian Embassy in the USA posted Antonov's words on Facebook.
Earlier, State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing that Russian Ambassador Antonov is far from being accurate and correct when characterizing the situation. According to him, the US authorities provided the Russian Foreign Ministry with a list of 24 diplomats who must leave the US territory by September 3 over expiring visas and the tightening of rules for issuing visas by the American side. According to Mr. Price, the State Department seems ready to consider the extension of visas to Russian diplomats on an individual basis, if they file an application to this effect.
It is quite obvious that Washington seeks to blame Moscow for the current diplomatic crisis, while remaining pure as the driven snow itself. The situation with visa issuance to Russian citizens, including the diplomats, seems really depressing today, and the American side is certainly the one to blame for this, as it refers to the ban on hiring local residents to work at the US Embassy in Moscow. Be it noted, the ban only came as a response by the Russian authorities to US sanctions imposed in April this year over Russia's "alleged attempts to influence the US presidential elections in 2020 and other acts of disinformation and interference". Just a reminder: back then, 32 individuals were sanctioned, and 10 employees of the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, suspected of having ties with Russian intelligence, were expelled from the country.
Moscow was naturally unwilling to tolerate Washington's lawlessness on the diplomatic front and violation of all the rules of international law, primarily the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961. Suffice it to recall US 2017 demands that Russia close the Consulate General in San Francisco, as well as two consular facilities in Washington and New York, which are buildings of trade missions. Our country has never regained those, mind you.
Russia has been concurrently trying to stabilize diplomatic relations with the United States by "peaceful means", without stooping to "visa wars", but failed to find understanding with Washington on the issue. For instance, Moscow proposed to bilaterally "reset" restrictions on the activities of foreign institutions and get back to the situation before December 2016, or at least to suspend certain categories of embassy staff in Moscow and Washington from visa exchanges.
However, in defiance of agreements reached at the Geneva summit between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden of June 16, there has been no progress in Washington's hard-line policy. The United States has not abandoned its sanctions policy against Russia. In a recent interview with the National Interest magazine, Anatoly Antonov said that by September 3, 24 Russian diplomats with expiring visas must leave America, without replacements. Moreover, the State Department earlier set a three-year limit on business trips for Russian personnel in the United States, which Washington does not incidentally apply to any other country.
"Unfortunately, the situation does not change for the better. Russian diplomatic missions in the United States are still forced to work under unprecedented restrictions that not only remain in effect, but are stepped up," Ambassador Antonov stated. "Regardless of the Biden administration's declarations concerning the important role of diplomacy and willingness to develop stable and predictable relations with our country, the Russian diplomatic presence experiences continuous strikes." According to him, the American side shows perseverance and ingenuity in this matter, and "the expulsions of diplomats are implemented under far-fetched pretexts now and then."
In conclusion, please note that the current situation in Russian-American relations has already caused a relevant reaction with Moscow. Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev is convinced that the US authorities are fully responsible for the visa situation. "The blame lies solely with the United States. The US groundlessly accused Russia of interfering in its domestic affairs and targeted Russian diplomatic missions in retaliation, seizing their property, expelling personnel and refusing to issue visas to new employees, which continues to this day in progressively sophisticated forms," Kosachev emphasized.