US says it is shuttering last 2 consulates in Russia

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The Trump administration has informed Congress that it intends to close the last two remaining US consulates in Russia.

The State Department told lawmakers last week that it would permanently close the consulate in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok and temporarily suspend operations at the consulate in Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains.

The notice was sent to the Congress on 10 December, but received little attention at that time. Three days before that time, the news of a major suspected Russian computer intrusion into US government and private computer systems led to the public emergence, which has given rise to severe cyber fear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in a gesture through video calls, as journalists wearing face masks to protect against coronovirus follow him to social distancing guidelines in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, December 17, Let's see on a big screen in 2020.  , Putin attended its annual news conference due to the coronovirus epidemic.  (Globe Live Media Photo / Alexander Gemaliyanchenko)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in a gesture through video calls, as journalists wearing face masks to protect against coronovirus follow him to social distancing guidelines in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, December 17, Let’s see on a big screen in 2020. , Putin attended its annual news conference due to the coronovirus epidemic. (Globe Live Media Photo / Alexander Gemaliyanchenko)

The department’s notification to Congress, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe Live Media, said that the closure is due to the number of US diplomats allowed to work in the country by Russian authorities.

The move is “in response to the ongoing staffing challenges of the US mission in Russia, given the cap of Russian imposed personnel on the US mission in 2017 and the resulting deadlock with Russia on diplomatic visas”.

Lost networks will need to go ‘below ground’

After the closure, America’s only diplomatic facility in Russia will be the embassy in Moscow. Russia ordered the closure of the US consulate in St Petersburg in 2018 as the US ordered the Russian consulate in Seattle to shut down in tit-for-tate operations over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain .

The consulate in Vladivostok was temporarily closed in March due to a coronovirus epidemic, and staff there already began removing sensitive equipment, documents and other items. The consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg employ a total of 10 US diplomats and 33 local staff.

The exact timing of closure has not been determined. According to the notice, American employees will be transferred to the embassy in Moscow. The department estimates that the permanent closure of the Vladivostok consulate will save $ 3.2 million per year.

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Everywhere east of Moscow – Russia will leave the US without a large-scale voluntary diplomatic representation, and present a major inconvenience for American travelers in Russia’s Far East, as well as Russians arriving in the United States in the region Let’s ask for a visa. Since all consular services will be controlled by the Moscow Embassy.

Ben Oakley
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