US Embassy in Moscow temporarily resumes halted services

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MOSCOW (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Friday it will temporarily resume some of the consular services it had halted earlier due to a Russian ban on hiring local residents.

The embassy said last month that the ban forced it to reduce its consular workforce by 75% and starting May 12, it would only provide emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of immigrant visas in case of life-or-death emergencies.

It said non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel would cease and it would stop offering routine notarial services, consular reports of births abroad or passport renewal services for the foreseeable future.

On Friday, however, the embassy announced that it will resume “routine U.S. citizen services,” including passport services, consular reports of birth abroad, and limited notarial services, as well as immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases, through July 16 after the Russian government informed it of the “intent to postpone” the hiring ban.

Later Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. has until Aug. 1 to comply with the ban. “This matter is fully and irreversibly closed,” she said.

Halting consular services leaves Russian businessmen, exchange students and romantic partners adrift because they won’t be able to obtain visas in Russia.

Moscow has moved to ban the U.S. Embassy and consular offices from hiring Russian and third-country nationals as part of its retaliation to a set of new U.S. sanctions imposed over Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of U.S. federal agencies — activities that Russia has denied.

The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats out, targeted dozens of companies and people and imposed new curbs on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Russia quickly retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for U.S. Embassy operations.

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