Russia says 24 diplomats asked by US to leave by September


Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov in an interview published on Sunday said the U.S. has asked 24 Russian diplomats to leave the country when their visas expire on Sept. 3.

According to an interview with The National Interest magazine, Antonov said that of the 24 diplomats who have been asked to leave, almost none of them have replacements at this time due to "abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures."

Antonov told National Interest editor Jacob Heilbrunn that the state of relations between the U.S. and Russia "unfortunately" did not improve following the Geneva summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June.

"It has gotten to the point where the U.S. authorities cancel valid visas of spouses and children of our staff with no reasons provided. The widespread delays in renewing expired visas are also aimed at squeezing Russian diplomatic workers out of the country. As a result, about sixty of my colleagues (130 together with family members) cannot return to their motherland even under urgent humanitarian circumstances," Antonov told Heilbrunn.

In April, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Moscow would be recommending the expulsion of 10 U.S. diplomats in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia. U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan temporarily returned to the U.S. following this move to speak with the Biden administration. Sullivan has since returned to Russia.

"We have shown restraint for a long time but after another wave of aggressive sanctions by the United States in April we were obliged to take additional steps to equate conditions of work for U.S. missions in Russia, including a prohibition to hire local personnel. It is certain that nobody benefits from such a situation. There is a need for solutions based on the principle of parity," Antonov added.

In a statement to Reuters, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price shot back at Antonov's characterization of the action taken on the 24 Russian diplomats, saying the U.S. was not using the visas to retaliate. Price stated that requiring Russians to reapply to extend their visas after three years was "nothing new."

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