The U.S. Embassy in Moscow says it is reducing the number of consular services it will provide because of restrictions Russia has imposed over the hiring of local staff.
"Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas," the embassy said in a statement on April 30.
"These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease."
President Vladimir Putin last week signed a law to limit the number of local staff working at foreign diplomatic missions and other agencies and ordered the Russian government to draw up a list of "unfriendly" states that will be subject to the restrictions.
Washington and Moscow have entered a new phase of heightened tensions, with the White House announcing punishing sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference, and threats against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Further souring the mood has been the issue of the health and jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Russia's backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine and its forcible annexation of Crimea, and allegations of Russian involvement in a deadly explosion at a munitions depot in the Czech Republic in 2014.
"We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75 percent, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible," the U.S. Embassy statement said, adding that the provision of emergency services in Russia may be "delayed or limited" because the ability of staff to travel outside Russia had been constrained.
It also urged U.S. citizens in Russia to heed a June 15 deadline set by the Russian government when a temporary extension to visas, residence permits, and immigration documents expires.