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Russia Accuses U.S. Of Trying To Bar Its Wrestlers From World Cup Event

A wrestling competition

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Washington of trying to bar Russian wrestlers from an upcoming competition, in a move it says makes the United States unfit to host such international sports events.

The ministry on March 28 said the U.S. embassy in Moscow refused to arrange visa interviews for the Russian team ahead of the freestyle wrestling World Cup, which runs from April 5 to 9 in the U.S. state of Iowa.

The wrestling World Cup is an eight-team tournament which serves as the first major global competition of the season.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that the U.S. "refusal" to provide visas represents "direct and open discrimination" against Russia, although she acknowledged that the embassy is claiming that a shortage of staff is to blame for the delay in processing visas.

"It's clearly impossible to hold international competitions on American territory any more — they don't play fair," Zakharova said.

"We are extremely indignant" over the incident, she said.

The ministry said in its statement that the U.S. embassy is blaming a "lack of consular personnel" for the problem.

Russia ordered the United States to slash its diplomatic staff by two-thirds to 455 last year in response to a U.S. order for Russia to cut its embassy staff in the United States.

Another round of diplomatic personnel cuts appears likely this year as the United States this week announced the expulsion of 60 Russian staff in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. Russia has vowed to respond in kind.

Based on reporting by AP, Interfax, and TASS