IN MOSCOW, the US Embassy announced on Friday that it would temporarily reopen some consular services that had been suspended due to a Russian ban on recruiting locals.
The embassy announced last month that the ban forced it to cut its consular staff by 75%. Beginning May 12, it would only provide emergency U.S. citizen services and a small number of immigrant visas in life-or-death situations.
It said it would stop processing non-immigrant visas for non-diplomatic travel and routine notarial services, consular records of births abroad, and passport renewal services for the time being.
After the Russian government told it of the “intent to delay” the hiring ban, the embassy announced on Friday that it would restore “routine U.S. citizen services,” such as passport services, consular reports of birth abroad, and local notarial services, as well as immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases, through July 16.
The United States has until August 1 to comply with the ban, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. She said, “This matter is fully and irreversibly closed.”
Russian business people, exchange students, and romantic partners will be stranded if consular services are halted, as they will be unable to receive visas in Russia.
As part of its response against a new package of US, sanctions levied over Russian intervention in the 2020 presidential election and participation in the SolarWind hack of US federal agencies — activities that Russia has denied — Moscow has moved to prohibit the US Embassy and consular offices from recruiting Russian and third-country nationals.
The United States expelled ten Russian diplomats, sanctioned hundreds of companies and individuals, and placed new restrictions on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Russia swiftly retaliated by ordering the departure of ten US diplomats, placing eight current and former US officials on a no-fly list, and tightening conditions for US Embassy operations.