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.”

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Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Closes Consulate General @USinStPete

Posted: 12:53 pm PT

 

On March 26, the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed a Russian Consulate in Seattle over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain (see U.S. and 20+ Countries Expel Russian Diplomats Over UK Nerve Agent Attack).

On March 29, in an expected tit for tat move, Russia announced the expulsion of 60 American diplomats and the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg. AP citing the Russian Foreign Ministry reports that “the U.S. diplomats, including 58 from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and two from the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, must leave Russia by April 5. It added that the U.S. must leave the consulate in St. Petersburg no later than Saturday.”

If Russia is not expelling U.S. diplomats from St. Petersburg, but closing the consulate there, this could mean that diplomats assigned to St. Pete potentially could move to Moscow, but 60 diplomats (and family members) will still be sent home.  We figured this was coming, some realities of diplomatic life: pack up with as little as 48 hours notice, for those with kids, pull children out of school, find new schools, arrange for shipment of pets, leave your household effects, move into transitional housing for an undetermined duration, etc.

Keep them in your thoughts. It will be a rough time for a while. For Foggy Bottom readers,  please check with AAFSW or the FLO, they may need volunteers to assist with the arrivals.

Here is a brief post history of @USinStPete:

St. Petersburg was the site of the original U.S. Mission to Russia, established in 1780, with Frances Dana as the Minister-designate. Dana spent three years in St. Petersburg, but his credentials were never accepted by the Russian Court. Thus the first Minister Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) of the United States in Russia, was John Quincy Adams, who presented his credentials to Tsar Alexander I on the 5th of November, 1809.

Adams served almost five years in St. Petersburg during the Napoleonic Wars. He finally left St. Petersburg because, as he wrote to President James Madison, he could not afford the expenses related to being Ambassador at Court. John Quincy Adams later became the Sixth President of the United States.

Another future President of the United States, James Buchanan, served in St. Petersburg as “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary” from 1832-1833.

During the turbulence of the revolution and civil war, Ambassador David R. Francis departed Russia on November 7, 1918, leaving Felix Cole to serve as Charge d’Affaires ad interim until the U.S. Embassy in Russia closed on September 14, 1919. By then, the ruling Bolsheviks had moved the country’s capital from Petrograd (the city’s name since the outbreak of the First World War) to Moscow, and the U.S. diplomatic presence in Peter’s City disappeared for over half a century.

The U.S. Mission was not restored until 1933, when the U.S. Embassy was opened in Moscow, the capital of the USSR.

The U.S. diplomatic presence was reestablished in Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then called) in 1972, with the opening of a U.S. Consulate General.

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U.S. Mission Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg #ThinkingofYou

Posted: 3:35  pm PT
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We’re thinking about the staffers at U.S. Mission Russia, at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and the U.S. Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.  Those who will remain at posts will have to make do without the help of their colleagues and local staff, and those who are required to depart will have to find temporary homes at other posts until they can locate new assignments.  We’re only a few weeks away from school opening, so we anticipate that some Foreign Service kids could also be affected.  We have no doubt that our Foreign Service folks are resilient and will face the next weeks with strength and fortitude, but these will be difficult times nonetheless.

This will be especially hard for a large number of employees at U.S. Mission Russia who are local employees and do not have relocation as an option. We don’t know at this time if they will be placed on administrative furlough, or if there are other options specific to the Russian posts.  3 FAM 7732.4 provides for separation by reduction in force (RIF) for local employees for “lack of funds, reorganization, decrease of work, or similar reason.” OPM says that agencies must follow RIF procedures for furlough of more than 30 continuous calendar days, however it also says that employees may be placed on an extended furlough when the agency plans to recall the employee to his or her position within 1 year. The FAM provides for reemployment of  FSNs “separated upon expiration of a short term of employment” but we won’t really know how long this will last, do we?

 

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US Mission Russia Issues Alert on Confirmed Anthrax Cases in Siberia

Posted:1:23 am ET
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Last week, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a message alerting U.S. citizens of confirmed anthrax cases in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District:

U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District should be aware of reported cases of anthrax affecting humans and animals in the region.

As of August 3, local media sources report 20 confirmed cases of anthrax in humans, resulting in the death of one child.  In total, more than 70 people have been hospitalized.  Between 1,500 and 2,300 animals have died or been killed in conjunction with efforts to combat spread of the disease.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anthrax is spread by ingesting spores in the air, food, and drink, and is not transmitted by direct human-to-human contact.

Local media outlets report that the governor has declared a quarantine in the district, and the area immediately surrounding the site of the outbreak has been evacuated.  Authorities have also banned the export of animals, furs, antlers, or meat, as well as mushrooms and berries, from the affected area.  At this time, there have been no reports of the disease in neighboring regions.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to avoid travel to affected areas.  U.S. citizens in or transiting through the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District should exercise caution, comply with local authorities’ instructions on quarantined areas, and follow local media for the latest information.  Any U.S. citizens who believe they may have been exposed to infected animals or animal products should seek medical attention.

The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District is under the consular district of USCG Yekaterinburg.

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