Russia threatens retaliation as U.S. moves to close visa centers

Russian Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, confirmed that Russian diplomats had been notified of the impending closures.

Russia has warned of an adequate response following reports that the United States plans to close Russian visa centres in Washington D.C. and New York City. The announcement, made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, signals a potential new low in already strained US-Russia relations.

Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, confirmed that Russian diplomats had been notified of the impending closures. Antonov assured that the Russian diplomatic and consular staff would continue to provide necessary legal and consular support to Russian citizens in the United States, despite the closures.

The closure of these visa centres could significantly impact Russians seeking to travel to the United States. Typically, these centres handle a large volume of visa applications, facilitating the process for Russian citizens. Their closure may lead to longer processing times and potential backlogs in visa applications.

Dr. Elena Petrova, an expert in U.S.-Russia relations at Georgetown University, commented on the potential fallout. This move could effectively reduce the number of Russian visitors to the U.S., whether for tourism, business, or educational purposes. It’s a concerning development that could further isolate the two nations from each other at a people-to-people level.

This development comes amid ongoing tensions between the two nations, which have been exacerbated by geopolitical conflicts, including disagreements over Ukraine, Syria, and allegations of election interference. The closure of visa centres may be seen as part of a broader pattern of diplomatic restrictions between the US and Russia in recent years.

In 2018, the US ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle and expelled 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK. Russia retaliated by closing the US consulate in St. Petersburg and expelling an equal number of U.S. diplomats.

While the specifics of Russia’s threatened adequate response remain unclear, historical precedent suggests it could involve reciprocal action against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Russia.

The international community is closely watching this development and is concerned about its potential to further deteriorate U.S.-Russia relations. European allies of the U.S. have expressed worry about the escalating diplomatic tensions, with some calling for renewed efforts at dialogue.