Washington: The US Department of State informed Congress that it has planned to close two consulates in Russia over limits set by the government in Moscow on the number of American diplomats allowed in the country, the media reported.
In a letter dated December 10 and obtained by The Hill news website, the Department informed that it will permanently close the Vladivostok consulate, while it will temporarily stop services at the second one in Yekaterinburg.
Regarding the decision, the Department said that it was “in response to ongoing staffing challenges of the US Mission in Russia in the wake of the 2017 Russian-imposed personnel cap on the US Mission and resultant impasse with Russia over diplomatic visas”.
The letter was signed by chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee and some members of the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, The Hill reported on Friday.
After the closures, the dates of which are yet to be confirmed, the US Embassy in Moscow will be the only American diplomatic mission in Russia.
The US Consulate General in St. Petersburg was closed in 2018 in a show of solidarity against the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.
The announcement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin in his 16th annual press conference on Thursday said he expected that at least some, if not all, problems in the Moscow-Washington relations can be resolved after US President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.
“We proceed from the premise that the newly-elected President of the US will understand what is happening… He is an experienced person both in domestic policy and in foreign policy and we expect that all the issues which have arisen, at least some of them, will be solved under the new administration,” he said.
Regarding the deterioration of ties, Putin said that Washington withdrew from key military agreements and failed to uphold its promises.
“Did we leave the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? We didn’t do that. And we have to respond by creating new weapons systems that can confront threats… Then our colleagues (the US) withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty.”
He also said that due to a reluctance from the side of the US to continue dialogue and negotiations in relation to the INF Treaty, Washington cannot expect Moscow to leave things the way they are.