US Embassy Moscow Now on “Authorized Departure” For Non-Emergency Staff and USG Family Members

 

On February 28, 2022, the State Department also announced the US Embassy Moscow is now under an “authorized departure” order for non-emergency staff and USG family members.

The U.S. Department of State has suspended operations at our Embassy in Minsk, Belarus and authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of non-emergency employees and family members at our Embassy in Moscow, Russia. We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine. The Department of State continually adjusts its posture at embassies and consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, and the health situation. We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world.

Also on February 28, the State Department issued an updated Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Russia citing the Russian military forces attack in Ukraine, the potential harassment of American citizens, and limited flights out of the country among other things, and urge their departure from Russia while commercial flights are still available.

Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, limited flights into and out of Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.  U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.

Due to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine, an increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines.  In addition, air space around southern Russia is restricted and a number of airports in the area have closed.  U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to the districts of the Russian Federation immediately bordering Ukraine should be aware that the situation along the border is dangerous and unpredictable. 

Given the ongoing armed conflict, U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling by land from Russia to Ukraine.  In addition, there is the potential throughout Russia of harassment towards foreigners, including through regulations targeted specifically against foreigners.  Given the ongoing armed conflict and the potentially significant impact on international travel options, U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.

The Advisory notes that the embassy’s ability to provide routine or emergency assistance to Americans is severely limited, as well as the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency personnel and USG family members from the country:

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia is severely limited, particularly in areas far from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow due to Russian government limitations on U.S. staffing and travel, and the ongoing suspensions of operations, including consular services, at U.S. consulates.

On February 28, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from U.S. Embassy Moscow.

Also on February 28, @USUN Spokesperson Olivia Dalton issued a statement on the expulsion of 12 Russians reportedly intelligence operatives at the Russian Mission at the United Nations for “engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security:”

The United States has informed the United Nations and the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations that we are beginning the process of expelling twelve intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security. We are taking this action in accordance with the UN Headquarters Agreement. This action has been in development for several months.

 

In Retaliation For Gorman Expulsion, U.S. Kicks Out No.2 Diplomat at RussianEmbassyUSA

 

Related posts:

 

 

US Embassy Moscow Issues Security Alert on Limited Flights Into and Out of Russia

 

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@StateDept Finally Confirmed Expulsion of Embassy Moscow DCM Bart Gorman

 

US Embassy Moscow’s Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman and his family departed Moscow on February 10 after being declared persona non grata by the Russian Federation. This blog learned of that departure on February 10. We posted about it on February 14 (see On Russia’s Diplomats’ Day, Moscow Kicks Out US Embassy DCM).
On February 17, the State Department spox confirmed to the press the expulsion. The State Department called the expulsion “unprovoked” and that the United States  “consider this an escalatory step” and is  “considering” its response.  “DCM Gorman’s tour had not ended; he had a valid visa, and he had been in Russia less than three years.”
According to TASS, the Russian MFA said that this “was done strictly in retaliation for the groundless expulsion of a minister-counselor of our embassy in Washington, contrary to his senior diplomatic rank. Moreover, the US Department of State defiantly ignored our request for prolonging his stay at least until a substitute arrived.”
So the Russian Embassy DCM’s diplomatic tour in DC concluded and the State Department refused to extend his visa. And the Russians were mad that their request was “defiantly ignored” … therefore they kicked out the guy in Moscow whose diplomatic tour and visa are still valid.
The State Department’s statement also includes this part: “We note that Russia’s actions have led to the U.S. mission to Russia being staffed at levels well below the Russian mission to the United States.”
And?

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On Russia’s Diplomats’ Day, Moscow Kicks Out US Embassy DCM

 

US Embassy Moscow’s Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman and his family departed Moscow on February 10 after being declared persona non grata by the Russian Federation, this blog has learned.
The US Embassy in Moscow did not respond to our inquiry.
Mr. Gorman was Chargé d’affaires at US Mission  Russia after the departure of Ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. who served in Moscow from October 2, 2017–October 3, 2019. Ambassador John J. Sullivan (1959–) assumed charge of the mission in January 2020 and Mr. Gorman continued as his deputy. Below is Mr. Gorman’s bio via Embassy Moscow:

Bart Gorman is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Gorman is responsible for managing key aspects of the U.S. – Russia relationship.

From 2017-2019, Mr. Gorman served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis (TIA), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State. In this capacity, he oversaw all Diplomatic Security programs that analyze, assess, investigate, and disseminate information on threats directed against U.S. diplomatic personnel overseas and domestically.

Previously, Mr. Gorman worked as the Director of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis (DS/ITA), where he led a cadre of analysts and support staff responsible for enhancing the safety and security of U.S. diplomatic facilities, personnel, and other key constituencies by monitoring, analyzing, and providing warnings about threats impacting U.S. interests worldwide.

Mr. Gorman has also served as the Senior Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Moscow, Russia (2014-2016); the Senior Deputy RSO in Baghdad, Iraq (2013-2014); the RSO in Amman, Jordan (2010-2013); the Deputy RSO in Beijing, China; a threat analyst in DS/ITA (2004-2006); the RSO in Almaty, Kazakhstan (2002-2004); the RSO in Yerevan, Armenia (2001-2002); and an Assistant RSO in Moscow, Russia (1999-2001). His first assignment as a special agent was in the New York Field Office (1999).

Mr. Gorman holds a Ph.D. and MA in Slavic Literatures and Languages from the University of Southern California, and a BA from Colgate University. He also holds an MS in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University.

Mr. Gorman is married to Donna Gorman and they have four children, ages 19, 16, 13, and 11.

 

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U.S. Embassy Moscow: A Scheme to Evade Taxes While Renouncing U.S. Citizenship Results in $500M+ Penalty

 

On October 29, USDOJ announced that Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, the founder of Russian Bank was sentenced for felony tax conviction arising from scheme to evade exit tax while renouncing his U.S. citizenship. Defendant Paid Over $500 Million in Taxes, Interest, and Penalties

The founder of a Russian bank was sentenced today for his felony conviction for filing a false tax return. As required under his plea agreement, prior to sentencing, Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, paid $508,936,184, more than double what he had sought to escape paying to the U.S. Treasury through a scheme to renounce his U.S. citizenship and conceal from the IRS large stock gains that he knew were reportable. This includes $248,525,339 in taxes, statutory interest on that tax and a nearly $100 million fraud penalty. Tinkov was additionally fined $250,000, which is the maximum allowed by statute, and sentenced to time served and one year of supervised release.

Tinkov was indicted in Sept. 2019 for willfully filing false tax returns, and was arrested on Feb. 26, 2020, in London, United Kingdom (UK). The United States sought extradition, and Tinkov contested on medical grounds. In public records, Tinkov has disclosed that he is undergoing a UK-based intensive treatment plan for acute myeloid leukemia and graft versus host disease, which has rendered him immunocompromised and unable to safely travel in the foreseeable future.

On Oct. 1, 2021, Tinkov entered a plea to one count of filing a false tax return. According to the plea agreement, Tinkov was born in Russia and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1996. From that time through 2013, he filed U.S. tax returns. In late 2005 or 2006, Tinkov founded Tinkoff Credit Services (TCS), a Russia-based branchless bank that provides its customers with online financial and banking services. Through a foreign entity, Tinkov indirectly held the majority of TCS shares.

In October 2013, TCS held an initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange and became a multi-billion dollar, publicly traded company. As part of going public, Tinkov sold a small portion of his majority shareholder stake for more than $192 million, and his assets following the IPO had a fair market value of more than $1.1 billion. Three days after the successful IPO, Tinkov went to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, to relinquish his U.S. citizenship.

As part of his expatriation, Tinkov was required to file a U.S. Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. This form requires expatriates with a net worth of $2 million or more to report the constructive sale of their assets worldwide to the IRS as if those assets were sold on the day before expatriation. The taxpayer is then required to report and pay tax on the gain from any such constructive sale.

Tinkov was told of his filing and tax obligations by both the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and his U.S.-based accountant. When asked by his accountant if his net worth was more than $2 million for purposes of filling out the expatriation form, Tinkov lied and told him he did not have assets above $2 million. When his accountant later inquired whether his net worth was under $2 million, rather than answer the question, Tinkov filled out the expatriation form himself falsely reporting that his net worth was only $300,000. On Feb. 26, 2014, Tinkov filed a 2013 individual tax return that falsely reported his income as only $205,317. In addition, Tinkov did not report any of the gain from the constructive sale of his property worth more than $1.1 billion, nor did he pay the applicable taxes as required by law. In total, Tinkov caused a tax loss of $248,525,339, which he has paid in full with substantial penalties and interest as part of his plea, together with tax liabilities for other years.

Read in full here.

 

 

US Mission Russia Now on “Authorized Departure” For USG Family Members

 

On August 5, 2021, the State Department announced that it has allowed the voluntary departure of U.S. government family members at US Mission Russia. Since this was an “authorized departure” order, FS family members will have the option to leave post if they want to, or remain at post.
Excerpt from the most recent Level4/Do Not Travel Advisory for the Russian Federation:

Do not travel to Russia due to terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19 and related entry restrictions.

Do Not Travel to:
The North Caucasus, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, due to terrorism, kidnapping, and risk of civil unrest.
Crimea due to Russia’s purported occupation of the Ukrainian territory and abuses by its occupying authorities.

On August 5, 2021, the Department allowed for the voluntary departure of U.S. government family members.

Country Summary: U.S. citizens, including former and current U.S. government and military personnel and private citizens engaged in business, who are visiting or residing in Russia have been interrogated without cause, and threatened by Russian officials and may become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion. All U.S. government personnel should carefully consider their need to travel to Russia.
Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and have convicted them in secret trials and/or without presenting evidence.  Russian officials may unreasonably delay U.S. consular assistance to detained U.S. citizens.  Russian authorities arbitrarily enforce local laws against U.S. citizen religious workers and open questionable criminal investigations against U.S. citizens engaged in religious activity. Russian security services are increasingly arbitrarily enforcing local laws targeting foreign and international organizations they consider “undesirable,” and U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Russia to perform work for or volunteer with non-governmental organizations.

Russia enforces special restrictions on dual U.S.-Russian nationals and may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, including denying access to U.S. consular assistance and preventing their departure from Russia.

The rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia, and U.S. citizens should avoid all political or social protests.

Read more here.

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@StateDept “continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing” in #Moscow

 

Via Department Press Briefing – August 2, 2021
08/02/2021 06:22 PM EDT

QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said there’s 24 Russian diplomats who’ve been asked to leave the country by September 3rd after their visas expired. So why are they being asked to leave? Were any of these people acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status? And is this a retaliation against something Russia has done?

MR PRICE: Well, let me first address Ambassador Antonov’s remarks. I understand he made these remarks during a media interview. But his characterization of the situation is not accurate; it’s incorrect. The three-year limit on visa validity for Russians, it’s nothing new. When visas expire, as you might expect, these individuals are expected to leave the country or apply for an extension. That is what is at play here.

But since you did raise the – this issue, let me take an opportunity to speak to the broader issue, and that is a statement that you all saw from us – from Secretary Blinken – on Friday. And we issued this statement in response to what the Russian Government has mandated and what took effect yesterday, and that’s namely that the prohibition on the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff except for our guard force, which very lamentably has forced us to let go of hundreds of staff members across Russia, across embassy and the mission community there. It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on our – on the U.S. mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian Government.

I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions. The Russian Government has also indicated that it will impose similar measures on the embassies of some other – some of our partners and allies. We also strongly object to this and will stand in solidarity with the other countries, the other members of the diplomatic community there who are affected by this.

The point we’ve made before is that our actions on March 2nd and April 15th, the measures we put into place to hold the Russian Government accountable for its range of threats to our interests and to our people – those were a response. We did not escalate; we did not seek an escalation. Those were a response to the Russian Government’s harmful actions, and we continue to believe that at times like these, we do need open channels of communication between our governments, including through our respective embassies. So we’re continuing to evaluate the situation and will update you as we have new developments.

Shaun.

QUESTION: Could we pursue that a bit? The ambassador – another thing that he said was that three-year validity is unique or almost unique to Russia. Is that accurate as far as you see?

MR PRICE: So the Office of Foreign Missions did issue some guidance recently. What we have said – and we can get you more details if we’re able to share on how this applies to Russia – but we have – we announced last week that the department will limit the assignment duration of most newly arriving members of foreign, diplomatic, or consular missions in the United States to a maximum of five consecutive years. Now, of course, that doesn’t apply to all missions, but the limitation on duration does help us to balance the lengths of tours for bilateral diplomats assigned to foreign missions in the United States and for U.S. diplomats’ assignments overseas.

QUESTION: Five years. Is that not the —

MR PRICE: The maximum is five years across the board.

QUESTION: So when he’s talking about three years, is that accurate? I mean, is that something that’s the case with Russians?

MR PRICE: I couldn’t comment as to whether that is unique to Russian diplomats or not.

QUESTION: Well, can they apply for renewals?

MR PRICE: We’ll see if we can get you more information on that.

QUESTION: Well, because, I mean, you said that after the three years for the Russians, when they either have to leave or they —

MR PRICE: Apply for an extension.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can they get an extension? Or you say no —

MR PRICE: They can apply for an extension. They can apply for an extension, and just as —

QUESTION: But have – and have you – but have you said that we will not accept any extension requests?

MR PRICE: What we’ve said is that they can apply for an extension. As in all cases, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: All right. But this – but this – but you’re saying in response to his question is that this is not like a retaliatory move for the broader issues or the —

MR PRICE: This is not – the characterization that he put forward is not accurate.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: He also said that you make it impossible for them to get visa again to come back. He said they likely will not come back because you guys make it impossible for them to get visa renewal. Is that – do you dispute what he’s saying?

MR PRICE: What we have consistently said is that we believe that in a relationship like this that, at least at the present, is characterized by disagreement, by tension, by friction, and all of that is probably putting it lightly, that we need more communication rather than less. We think it is in our interest. We tend to think it’s in the interest of our two countries, that we are able to communicate effectively and openly, and we can do that through our embassies, but our embassies need to be adequately staffed. The measures that the Russian Federation put in place on Sunday has, as we said before, forced us to let go of hundreds of our employees across our facilities in Russia. That, in turn, has a ripple effect on our ability, on the ability of our diplomats in Russia to do their jobs. We think that is quite unfortunate.

Yes.

[…]

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Russia for one second?

MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you said that the U.S. is continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing. What do you mean by that? Do you mean the U.S. is questioning if they should keep open this embassy in Moscow? Do you mean you’re looking at how to respond both of those things? Can you just be a little more explicit?

MR PRICE: Well, so of course, our embassy in Moscow does remain open. When it comes to our other facilities, operations remain suspended at the U.S. consulate general in Vladivostok. All public-facing services were halted earlier this year at our consulate general in Yekaterinburg. The CG there no longer provides consular services, including U.S. citizen services such as passport issuance, notarial services, and consular reports of birth abroad.

What we have voiced strong objection to, including from the Secretary that you saw on Friday, was the idea that because of the prohibition on the use of Russian or third country staff, that we would have to diminish some of the services and some of the operations that are – that take place at our embassy in Moscow. What I was referring to there – and obviously, we regret this decision that the Russian Federation has taken. Of course, we are going to continue to evaluate what might be appropriate – what may be an appropriate response for us to take going forward.

Related posts:

 

US Mission Russia Terminates Local Employees/Contractors Due to Moscow’s Prohibition

 

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.”

Related posts:

 

 

New U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan Presents Credentials to President Putin