The United States began to scale back its visa services in Russia on Monday, drawing an angry reaction from Moscow three weeks after President Vladimir Putin ordered Washington to more than
The move, which will hit Russian business travelers, tourists and students, was the latest in a series of bilateral measures that have driven relations to a new post-Cold War low, thwarting hopes on both sides that they might improve after US President Donald Trump took office in January.
The US Embassy said it was suspending all
Beginning Monday, it would be canceling a number of appointments and asking applicants to reschedule.
"Capacity for interviews in the future will be greatly reduced because we have had to greatly reduce our staffing levels to comply with the Russian government’s requirement," it said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US demarche looked like an attempt to provoke ill-feeling among ordinary Russians against the authorities.
"The American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities," Lavrov told reporters.
Lavrov said the US visa move had a "political overtone" and that Moscow would consider how best to respond.
The US step means Russian citizens wanting to visit the United States for business, tourism or educational reasons will no longer be able to apply via US consulates outside Moscow and will have to travel to the Russian capital instead.
That will pose a logistical challenge for many Russians, whose country is the world's largest by territory. The United States has consulates in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg.
"You now have an entire nation's work coming through one office with far fewer staff," said Matthew Morley, an American immigration attorney based in Moscow.