Snapshot: Staffing at US Embassy Moscow v. Russian Embassy USA

 

 

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:

 

Russian Govt to Postpone Prohibition of US Mission Russia’s Employment of Foreign Nationals

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

A follow-up to our April 20 post: US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12.
On May 14, the US Embassy in Moscow announced to US citizens in Russia that the host country has informed the US Mission of its intent to postpone its prohibition of the employment of foreign nationals at US Mission Russia. So for now through July 16, routine U.S. citizen services will temporarily resumed.

Temporary Resumption of Consular Services – The Russian government has informed U.S. Embassy Moscow of its intent to postpone the prohibition of U.S. Mission Russia’s employment of foreign nationals.  Consequently, through July 16, U.S. Embassy Moscow will temporarily resume routine U.S. citizen services, including passport services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, and limited notarial services.  Please visit our website for instructions on scheduling an appointment.  We will also provide immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases.

Actions To Take:

If you are a U.S. citizen present in Russia and your visa has expired, we strongly urge you to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government.

If you plan to remain in Russia past this deadline, please visit your local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) office to start the necessary paperwork as recently suggested by MVD.

Be aware that Embassy Moscow is unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas, as this process is managed entirely by the Russian government.

In related news, Moscow Times reports that US Embassy Moscow spokesperson Rebecca Ross and nine other American diplomats have until May 21 to leave the country in line with Russia’s retaliation to the expulsion of 10 of its diplomats from the United States.

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US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog and your dedicated blogger going. So here we are on Week #7 of our eight-week annual fundraising. Our previous funding ran out in August 2020. We recognize that blogging life has no certainty, and this year is no exception.  If you care what we do here, please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27.  We could use your help. Grazie!  Merci! Gracias!

 

On April 30, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Mission Russia – Reduction of Consular Services (30 April, 2021)

Reduction of Consular Services – Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas. These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.

Embassy Moscow will not offer routine notarial services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, or renewal passport services for the foreseeable future. If you are resident in Russia and require a new U.S. passport to remain legally present, or if you require an emergency U.S. passport for a demonstrable, life or death emergency (booking travel with an expired U.S. passport does not qualify) please send an email to moscowacs@state.gov and we will work to accommodate your request. Provision of emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia may also be delayed or limited due to staff’s constrained ability to travel outside of Moscow.

If you are a U.S. citizen present in Russia and your visa has expired, we strongly urge you to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government. If you plan to remain in Russia past this deadline, please visit your local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) office to start the necessary paperwork as recently suggested by MVD.  Embassy Moscow is unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas, as this process is managed entirely by the Russian government.

We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible.

We understand that the Russian Foreign Ministry has already labeled locally employed staff working for the US Mission in Russia as “spies.” Given the LE staff currently imprisoned in Turkey, and the State Department’s inability to secure their release, this is worrisome. We hope to write a follow-up.
The last OIG inspection of US Mission Russia was conducted in 2013, a year after Putin’s return to office. At that time, State/OIG reported that across Mission Russia, employees “face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War.” The report also indicates at that time that the mission employed 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies. These numbers are from 2013, so the count on U.S. direct-hire positions may have changed significantly given the diplomatic skirmishes the last several years. We’re not sure about the LE numbers either but we’re looking.
Note that the Embassy’s consular sections and general services typically have the most number of locally hired employees. With the mass termination of locally employed staff,  US Mission Russia will be on its own with no local staff support for visa services, American services, emergency services to American citizens, maintenance and repairs, procurement of goods/services, motorpool, housing, health unit, cashier, and on and on.

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

 

 

U.S. Senate Confirms John Sullivan as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

 

 

PN1232: John Joseph Sullivan, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Russian Federation
— By unanimous consent agreement, vote 12/11/2019.
— Cloture invoked in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 69 – 25. Record Vote Number: 392
— Considered by Senate.
— By unanimous consent agreement, debate and vote 12/12/2019.

 

Related posts:

 

 

D/Secretary John Sullivan on the Effort to Smear Former US Amb to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch

On October 30, 2019, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. His 2-page Opening Statement is available to read here. Given his prior confirmation, and what appears to be bipartisan support in the Senate (plus GOP got the votes), it is likely that he will sail through this confirmation process and may be in Moscow by Thanksgiving Day.

Trump to Nominate @StateDept Deputy Secretary John Sullivan to be U.S. Ambassador to Moscow

 

On October 11, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. He would succeed Ambassador Jon Huntsman who announced his resignation this past August. Ambassador Huntsman’s resignation is effective October 3, 2019 according to his letter published by The Salt Lake Tribune. The WH released the following brief bio:

John Joseph Sullivan of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Russian Federation.

John Sullivan currently serves as Deputy Secretary of State, a position he has held since May 2017. He also served in April 2018 as Acting Secretary of State. Earlier in his career, Deputy Secretary Sullivan served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce and held senior positions at the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Commerce, advising the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Counsel to the President on legal and policy issues. Deputy Secretary Sullivan has also had two decades of experience in private law practice, including as a partner in Mayer Brown LLP, where he was co-chair of the firm’s national security practice. He served as a law clerk for Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States and for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Deputy Secretary Sullivan received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Teaching Fellow, and Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review.

 

Related posts:

 

 

2018 Goodbyes and Resignations

Jim Mattis Quits in Protest Over Trump’s Chaos Strategery
Brett McGurk, U.S. Envoy in ISIS Fight, Quits Over Trump’s Syria Withdrawal
Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit
Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Closes Consulate General @USinStPete
Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley Resigns From the Foreign Service Over Trump Policies