Russian officials say they are reviewing the possibility of revoking U.S. diplomats’ access to dedicated parking facilities near the American embassy and Moscow and at consular offices in other cities.
According to the newspaper Kommersant, this is one of the measures Moscow is considering as a means to establishing “full parity” between Russian and American diplomatic missions. In the U.S., Russian diplomatic staff don’t have dedicated parking, the newspaper says.
Russian officials are also reviewing the possibility of reducing the number of American diplomats that are permitted to leave the grounds of the U.S. diplomatic mission. Currently, the number of American diplomatic staff in Russia who enjoy these privileges is higher than the number of Russian diplomatic staff in the U.S. with such privileges.
On September 5, Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow might require the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia by another 155 people, in light of the fact that as many Russian diplomatic staff in the U.S. work exclusively in Russia’s UN mission. “Strictly speaking, they aren’t diplomats accredited by the State Department,” Putin explained at a press conference in China.
On December 29, 2016, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats, accusing them of playing a role in Russia’s supposed meddling. Two embassy properties were also closed down and seized by American officials.
In late July 2017, following another round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, Moscow ordered the United States to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people — the same number of people currently working at Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the U.S. According to Russian officials, this led to the dismissal of more than 700 staff. The news agency RBC says roughly 100 of these people were American citizens, while the rest were local Russian employees working at the U.S. embassy and consulates.
In response to recent Kremlin sanctions drastically reducing America’s diplomatic presence in Russia, the U.S. embassy in Moscow announced that non-immigrant visas will no longer be issued in the three U.S. consulates across the country, beginning on August 23. As of September 1, the only place Russians can interview for U.S. visas is at the embassy in Moscow.
In late August, “in the spirit of parity involved by the Russians,” American officials ordered Moscow to close its consulate general in San Francisco and two trade missions — one in Washington, D.C., and another in New York City. The new restrictions have left Moscow with three consulates in the United States: in New York, Houston, and Seattle.