U.S. suspends visa services at consulate in Russia: ambassador
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States is suspending its visa and citizen services at a consulate in Russia and make the services available only at its embassy in Moscow following a safety and security review of its operations, the U.S. ambassador said on Thursday.
The move comes after the United States halted work at two consulates in Russia last year, citing safety and security issues at the facilities where operations had been curtailed over COVID-19.
U.S.-Russia ties have been strained by issues ranging from conflicts in Ukraine to Syria, as well as allegations of Russian interference in U.S. politics, which Moscow denies.
Washington is set to impose fresh sanctions against Moscow after U.S. President Joe Biden said last month his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will "pay a price" for directing efforts to swing the November 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump.
Ambassador John Sullivan said in a statement that operations at the U.S. consulate in the far eastern city of Vladivostok would remain suspended.
He said the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg would remain open but would no longer issue visas or offer services to U.S. citizens as of Thursday, meaning all visa applications from Russia will be processed by the embassy in Moscow.
"The Embassy will also provide visa services as efficiently and expeditiously as possible, given staffing constraints," Sullivan said.
Russia in March recalled its ambassador to the United States back to Moscow for consultation on the future of U.S.-Russia ties, a move it said was designed to ensure bilateral ties did not degrade irreparably.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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