The US Mission Russia staffing issue that has been brewing for a while has finally erupted to a predictable conclusion. Previously, in late April we reported that there was supposed to be a Mass Termination of Local Staff, and Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12. That did not happen when Russia informed the US Embassy in Moscow of its intent to postpone its prohibition of the employment of foreign nationals until mid-July. Presumably, the two sides continued talking but the issue did not get resolved.
On Friday, July 30, Secretary Blinken released the following statement:
The United States is immensely grateful for the tireless dedication and commitment of our locally employed staff and contractors at U.S. Mission Russia. We thank them for their contributions to the overall operations and their work to improve relations between our two countries. Their dedication, expertise and friendship have been a mainstay of Mission Russia for decades.
Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force. We are deeply saddened that this action will force us to let go of 182 local employees and dozens of contractors at our diplomatic facilities in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.
These unfortunate measures will severely impact the U.S. mission to Russia’s operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government. Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia.
We value our deep connection to the Russian people. Our people-to-people relationships are the bedrock of our bilateral relations.
As of April 1, 2021, Consulate General in Yekaterinburg stopped visa and American Citizen services. In March 2020, the U.S. Consulate General Vladivostok suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Post did not resume its operations in due to critically low staffing of the United States Mission to Russia. It looks like following that suspension of services, U.S. citizens in the Russian Far East were still able to obtain services from the U.S. Consular Agency in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Visa services by then were provided solely by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow due to insufficient staffing. It is likely that this consular agency will also shut down.
We once recalled that in 1986, the then Soviet Union barred all Soviet employees from working for the U.S. Embassy or U.S. diplomats, in response to the expulsion from the United States of 55 Soviet diplomats. At that time WaPo noted that “225 diplomats and their families had to adjust quickly to the latest development in the embassy wars.”
My deepest gratitude to all locally employed staff and contractors at U.S. Mission Russia that we are regrettably forced to let go. Your contributions and commitments over the years have not gone unnoticed. This action is a direct result of the Russian government's prohibition.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 30, 2021
New from me: Under Putin’s Rules, U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia left with a skeleton crew. From 1,200 employees in 2017 down to 120 starting Aug. 1
Some diplomats frustrated Biden isn't issuing more forceful response to these new restrictions https://t.co/Sj0G9uUgb7
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) July 29, 2021
Nearly 200 local staffers working for the U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia were laid off ahead of an Aug. 1 deadline set by the Kremlin https://t.co/jwxQxNXIGI
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) July 31, 2021
120 (and dropping with summer transfers and visas for incoming officers being delayed) is just over a third of the 350 American officers we had in Russia just 10 years ago.
— Scott Rauland (@ScottRauland) July 27, 2021
Not completely although we have imposed limits as well. Our systems different (eg #Russia mission not as reliant on host nation employment as US is). We prize reciprocity but US goal not to cut off contacts, exchanges etc.
— Laura Kennedy (@AmbKennedy_ret) July 30, 2021
Ambassador Sullivan: “Arrived back in Moscow today. Ready to work with the @USEmbRu team toward progress on U.S. foreign policy priorities, and with #Russia on our goal of a stable and predictable relationship between our countries.” pic.twitter.com/4rfNtV7wsY
— Jason P. Rebholz (@USEmbRuPress) June 24, 2021
- Oh, Helsinki! Florida Man Sends Warmest Regards to Putin, ‘Swagger’ Guy Preens About Russia Record June 14, 2021
- Russian Govt to Postpone Prohibition of US Mission Russia’s Employment of Foreign Nationals May 21, 2021
- US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12 Apr 30, 2021
- U.S. Senate Confirms John Sullivan as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Dec 12, 2019
- Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Closes Consulate General @USinStPete Mar 2018
- U.S. Orders Russia to Close Its Consulate General in San Francisco, Two Annexes By Sept. 2 Aug 2017
- U.S. Mission Russia to Suspend Nonimmigrant Visa Operations Starting August 23 Aug 2017
- Putin Says 755 U.S. Diplomats Must Leave, Let’s Break Down the Numbers July 2017