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The US and Russia collide over embassy staffing despite talks

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Despite recent talks aimed at bringing more stability to a tumultuous relationship, the US and Russia clashed Monday over embassy staffing.

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador in Washington, condemned “expulsions” of Moscow’s diplomats in an interview, saying the US had become “persistent and creative in this business” by limiting Russians to three-year visas.

“We received a list of 24 diplomats who are expected to leave the country before September 3, 2021. Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has abruptly tightened visa-issuing procedures,” he told US monthly international affairs magazine The National Interest.

According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, the ambassador’s remarks were “inaccurate,” because the Russians were aware that their visas would expire after three years and that they were free to apply for extensions.

He did, however, reiterate a complaint that Moscow had forced Washington to lay off nearly 200 locals at US diplomatic missions in Russia as of Sunday due to a new ban on hiring Russian or third-country personnel.

“It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on the US Mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government,” Price told reporters.

“I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions,” he said, while denying that the three-year validity of visas was linked.

However, on April 15, President Joe Biden’s administration expelled 10 Russian diplomats over what Washington claimed was Russian election interference and a cyberattack.

Price described past actions as a “response to the Russian government’s harmful actions” but said the United States valued “open channels of communication.”

In June, Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, and both leaders described the meeting as business-like, despite the two countries’ wide range of differences.

Senior officials met again last week in Geneva to discuss arms control, as part of a new dialogue established by Putin and Biden to encourage more predictability in relations.

Source: AFP

Photo by Peter Klaunzer – Pool/Keystone via Getty Images

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