US Orders 24 Russian Diplomats Out 08/03 06:16
MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian ambassador to the United States says Washington
has ordered 24 Russian diplomats to leave the country by Sept. 3, a move that
comes shortly after the U.S. said it had laid off nearly 200 local staffers
working for its diplomatic missions in Russia.
They are the latest in a series of measures taken by both sides that have
strained U.S.-Russia relations, although the State Department denied that its
move was retaliatory.
In an interview with The National Interest magazine, ambassador Anatoly
Antonov said the embassy received a list of 24 Russian diplomats who are
expected to leave the U.S. by Sept. 3.
"Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has
abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures," Antonov said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the
diplomats are expected to leave the U.S. but rejected Antonov's
characterization of the situation as "incorrect." He said the expirations were
not related to the situation with local staff at U.S. diplomatic facilities in
"There's a three-year limit on visa validity for Russians, it's nothing new.
When visas expire, as you might expect, these individuals are expected to leave
the country or apply for an extension. That is what is at play here," he told
reporters. Price did not say whether applications for extensions would be
considered or summarily rejected.
Antonov said the situation with the embassies in both countries hasn't
changed for the better since the June summit in Geneva between Russian
President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden. It was after that summit
that Antonov and his U.S. counterpart John Sullivan returned to their posts
after being recalled for consultations.
"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," Antonov said.
"The expulsions of diplomats are implemented under far-fetched pretexts now
and then. Last December the State Department unilaterally established a
three-year limit on the assignment period for Russian personnel in the United
States that, as far as we know, is not applied to any other country," he said.
Antonov's interview comes several days after the State Department announced
laying off 182 locally employed staffers at the U.S. facilities in Russia to
comply with a ban on local hires the Kremlin imposed earlier this year in
response to U.S. expulsions of Russian diplomats and tit-for-tat closures of
numerous diplomatic facilities in each country.
The expulsions occurred in the context of U.S. sanctions imposed over
Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the poisoning of a
former Russian spy in Britain, the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny
and the crackdown on his supporters, and Russian involvement in the SolarWinds
hack of U.S. federal agencies. All are activities that Russia has denied.
After the announcement of the ban, the U.S. Embassy in Russia suspended
routine consular services and since May has been processing immigrant visas
only in the case of life-or-death emergencies.
The suspension of consular services has also left Russian businessmen,
exchange students and romantic partners adrift because they are no longer able
to obtain U.S. visas in Russia.