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Russia order limits U.S. Embassy staff

by The Associated Press | May 15, 2021 at 4:04 a.m.

MOSCOW — Russia has designated the United States and the Czech Republic as nations that engage in “unfriendly actions,” a move that limits the hiring of staff for their embassy operations.

The Russian government’s order that was posted Friday bans the U.S. from hiring local personnel for its diplomatic missions in Russia and caps the number of local hires for the Czech Republic at 19. The move would likely cost scores of Russians who work as support staff for the two embassies their jobs.

Moscow first announced the ban on the U.S. hiring local staff last month as part of its retaliation for a slew of new U.S. sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and for involvement in the SolarWind hack of U.S. federal agencies.

On Friday, however, the U.S. Embassy announced that it will resume “routine U.S. citizen services,” including passport services, consular reports of birth abroad, and limited notarial services, as well as immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases, through July 16 after the Russian government informed it of the “intent to postpone” the hiring ban.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States has until Aug. 1 to comply with the new requirements.

Russia has warned the measure would also apply to other nations that engage in “unfriendly actions.” The Czech Republic’s inclusion in the list follows last month’s diplomatic sparring between Russia and several European Union nations that ensued when Prague expelled scores of Russian diplomats over the alleged involvement of Russian spies in an ammunition depot explosion in 2014. Moscow has denied any role in the blast.

The Czech Foreign Ministry deplored the Russian move as “another step in the escalation of the relations, not just with the Czech Republic but also with the European Union and its allies.”

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