Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that American embassy workers who have been stationed in Moscow for over three years have been given just weeks to leave the country, a response to the Biden administration’s halt of processing visas in Moscow, and Russians are obliged to travel to the US embassy in Warsaw.
Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday, diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced that “by January 31, 2022, employees of the US embassy in Moscow who have been on assignment for more than three years must leave Russia.”
The news comes after Washington reportedly denied extending the visas of dozens of family members of Russian diplomats based in the US. According to Zakharova, “we consider the American move to be a clear expulsion and intend to react accordingly.”
She said that “such a game” was started by America’s policy decisions, rather than because Russia was eager to break off ties.
“We tried long and hard to reason with them and direct them to some constructive solution to the issue, but they made their choice.”
Zakharova also criticized why the US representative offices require so many employees to process consular documents: remarking that US diplomats “have turned a technical procedure, a routine one for the 21st century, into a real hell,” and said American envoys “have for many years been destroying the system of consular services in Russia.”
Russia’s ambassador Anatoly Antonov to the United States said that 27 more Russian diplomats and their families were expelled from the United States and would leave on Jan. 30.
“Our diplomats are being expelled…A large group of my comrades, 27 people with families, will leave us on January 30… We are facing a serious staff shortage,” Antonov said in a video interview for the Soloviev Live Youtube channel aired late on Saturday.
Russia has previously said that over 100 of its diplomats with families had been forced to leave the United States since 2016 when the relationship between the two countries worsened.
US President Joe Biden revealed last month that the amount of American staff in Russia had dwindled to 120 from 1,200 in early 2017, and said it was hard to continue operations there when limited to just a “caretaker presence.”
Washington has also ordered the closure of its consulates across Russia.
In August, Russia barred embassies from hiring Russian or third-country staff, forcing the United States to lay off more than 200 locals at missions across Russia, according to the U.S. State department.
In April, the Biden administration issued sanctions and expelled 10 Russian diplomats over actions including the SolarWinds cyber attack and election interference.