Aug. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. visa services in Russia will be suspended on Wednesday, the U.S. Mission Russia said on Monday, after Russia ordered U.S. consulates and embassy to cut staff.
"As a result of the Russian government's personnel cap imposed on the U.S. Mission, all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23," a statement by the mission, a division of the State Department, said. It added that "visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale" on Sept. 1, and available only at its Moscow embassies; matters regarding visas "will be suspended until further notice" at U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the United States to cut its 755-person diplomatic staff in Russia in retaliation for sanctions legislation passed in July by the U.S. Congress. The plan, to reduce the U.S. presence in its diplomatic mission in Russia, was meant to bring the number in line with Russian diplomatic staff in the United States; Putin added that he hoped the order would end a dispute begun in December, during the Obama administration, in which 35 Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States in retaliation for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, Bloomberg News said Monday.
The changes in U.S. policy in Russia will affect only a small number of Russians. The United States was ranked 25th of countries to which Russians citizens traveled in the first quarter or 2017, former Soviet Union republics notwithstanding. The number has declined as tensions between Russia and the United States have increased, and the value of the ruble against the dollar has fallen.