Moscow — The United States said on Friday that it had dismissed about 200 local employees working for a diplomatic mission in Russia prior to the August 1 deadline set by the Kremlin for dismissal. This move is just the latest in a series of steps taken by both sides that have strained US-Russian relations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the layoffs were regrettable and that the United States wanted to avoid them, despite the sharp deterioration in relations between Moscow and Washington, where there were few signs of improvement.
“These unfortunate measures could have a profound impact on the U.S. mission to Russia’s operations, including personnel security and the ability to engage in diplomacy with the Kremlin,” Blinken said in a statement. Stated.
“We regret the actions taken by the Kremlin to force the reduction of our services and operations, but the United States will carry out our commitment while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia. Let’s do it, “he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry was silent on the issue, and the Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately answer the question.
Earlier this year, Russia announced a ban on almost all non-American staff at the Moscow embassy and the Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok consulates. This is in response to the US expelling Russian diplomats and the closure of numerous diplomatic facilities in each country.
These expulsions and closures were against Russia’s intervention in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the poisoning of former Russian spies in the United Kingdom, the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the crackdown on his supporters, and their involvement. Made in the context of US sanctions imposed. At the US Federal Agency’s SolarWind hack. All activities that Russia has denied.
After announcing the ban, the embassy has suspended regular consular services and has been processing immigrant visas since May only in life-threatening emergencies.
Russian businessmen, exchange students, and romantic partners were drifted because they were unable to obtain a US visa in Russia due to the consulate’s outage.
Still, the United States was cautiously optimistic that Russia’s decision could be overturned at a meeting between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin in Geneva last month. But even after both sides resumed strategic arms control negotiations this week, those hopes have disappeared.
Therefore, Friday’s announcement sealed the fate of 182 locally hired staff who worked as office and clerical staff, drivers, and contractors at US facilities. Only guards working outside the compound gate were exempt from the ban.
“The United States is very grateful for the tireless dedication and dedication of locally hired staff and contractors at US Mission Russia,” Blinken said. “We appreciate their contribution to their overall activities and their efforts to improve relations between the two countries. Their dedication, expertise and friendship have been for decades. Mission Russia was the mainstay. “
“We value deep ties with the Russian people,” Blinken added. “Our person-to-person relationship is the foundation of our bilateral relationship.”
By Daria Litvinova and Matthew Lee