Parking spaces for US consulate staff in Russia removed – State Dept

Parking spaces for US consulate staff in Russia removed – State Dept
The US State Department has claimed that Russia has removed parking spaces reserved for American consular staff outside mission buildings. US diplomats are set to challenge the move with the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“We can confirm that the parking spaces, previously reserved for the US consular personnel, have been removed. We will raise the issue with the Russian Foreign Ministry,” a US State Department representative told RIA Novosti.

Russian facilities in the US do not have dedicated parking spaces outside the diplomatic properties.

“There have been measures undertaken to remove the parking spaces near the consulates [situated in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Vladivostok],” spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Moscow told TASS.

The three parking spaces near the US Embassy in Moscow have been also removed, Maria Olson said.

The removal of the parking spaces has not yet been confirmed by Russian officials.

The move, however, has been reported in Russian media among the possible retaliatory measures for the shutdown of the three Russian diplomatic facilities on US soil earlier this month.

On Tuesday, an illegal parking space near the US Consulate General in St. Petersburg was closed, according to media reports. Cars have been apparently parking for years in a pedestrian area, and it has now been marked as a pedestrian crossing.

Earlier this month, road signs allowing US Consulate General personnel to exclusively park in front of the mission in Ekaterinburg were removed.

The ongoing bitter row over diplomatic properties between the US and Russia was triggered by the decision of then-President Barack Obama, who expelled 35 Russian diplomats and seized two diplomatic properties in December 2016.

Moscow has repeatedly urged the US to reverse the decision, but eventually went for retaliation, ordering Washington to cut its diplomatic personnel in Russia by 755, to match the numbers of the Russian diplomats in the US.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promised to bring Moscow’s diplomatic missions in the US and those of Washington in Russia into “full parity.”

READ MORE: Moscow to bring diplomatic missions in US, Washington’s in Russia to parity – Lavrov

“If the US makes parity a criterion, we will bring those conditions in full accordance with what is called parity,” Lavrov said, noting that Russia had actually included the Russian mission to the UN in the numbers of its diplomatic corps.

The issue of the disparity between Russia and the US in numbers of the diplomatic staff was addressed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin last week.

“We have agreed with our [American] partners that there should be parity of the number of diplomatic staff in Russia and the United States. There were some 1,300 diplomats from the US; we had 455. We fixed this,” Putin told reporters last Tuesday. “But among those 455 diplomatic staff working in the United States, there are 155 people working at the United Nations. Strictly speaking, they are not part of the diplomatic corps accredited by the US State Department,” he added

Courtesy, RT

Iran-style talks involving world powers may ease North Korea knot – Merkel

Iran-style talks involving world powers may ease North Korea knot – Merkel
Direct multilateral talks with North Korea modeled on the landmark 2015 Iran deal may help cool tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Chancellor Merkel said comprehensive negotiations that led to the historic deal between Iran and all five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany could be a model for resolving the North Korean crisis.

“If our participation in these talks is desired, I will immediately say yes,” Merkel said.

While saying she “could imagine” that such a format would help the “settlement of the North Korea conflict,” Merkel also noted that Europe and Germany “should be prepared to play a very active part in that.”

Under the 2015 deal brokered by Iran and six major powers – Russia, the US, Britain, China, and France, plus Germany – Tehran agreed to redesign and reduce its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic embargoes.

In the interview, Merkel said it was “a long but important time of diplomacy” that eventually resulted in a “good end.”

While advocating a diplomatic solution, she also said it is crucial to put pressure on North Korea so that the leadership in Pyongyang becomes more cooperative and willing to talk to the world community. Additional sanctions would be sufficient for Pyongyang to engage in negotiations, Merkel said.

Recently, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated following a series of missile tests. The US and its regional allies have also ramped up military preparations, contributing to the flare-up in tensions. Last Sunday, Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb, its most powerful weapon to date.

While condemning the test, Moscow also said that the actions of Washington and its regional ally are pushing North Korea to more aggressive steps. “The United States and South Korea are provoking Pyongyang by flexing military muscle and making repeated threats of intervention and pre-emptive strikes,” Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Federation Council committee for defense and security, said.

Kim Young-jae, the minister of foreign economic relations of North Korea, recently said that the US is not interested in a peaceful solution and is “pursuing the only vile goal – war.”

According to the German Foreign Office, there have been no high-level visits to North Korea by German government delegations or trips to Germany by North Koreans at the ministerial level. Both countries, however, share some trade and humanitarian ties.

Merkel reiterated her call for a peaceful solution while speaking to supporters on Friday. “It’s a challenge for everyone – Europe, USA, Japan, China, Russia – to find a diplomatic solution,” she said at the campaign rally, adding, “There is no military solution for the conflict regarding North Korea.”

Next week, Merkel is expected to have telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss North Korea. Both leaders have repeatedly called for diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Last Sunday, Putin and Xi “expressed their deep concern over this situation,” adding that the two leaders stressed the importance of “preventing chaos on the peninsula,” according to the Kremlin.

Putin “called on the international community not to give in to emotions and to take a reasonable and balanced approach,” it added.

Courtesy, RT

‘Not on guest list’: Putin not invited to Trump-hosted meeting on UN reform

‘Not on guest list’: Putin not invited to Trump-hosted meeting on UN reform
Russian president Vladimir Putin has not been invited to a meeting on reforming the United Nations, reportedly set to be hosted by Donald Trump and due to take place ahead of the General Assembly in New York, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said.

“As far as I know, no [he hasn’t],” Ushakov said, responding to a question from a journalist on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok on Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told TASS last week that the Russian leader does not plan taking part in the session of the UN General Assembly this year.

Trump, an outspoken critic of the United Nations, is reportedly determined to gain support for reforming the world body when he hosts an event at UN headquarters on September 18.

Countries will be invited to attend Trump’s meeting only if they sign on to a US-drafted 10-point political declaration backing efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to initiate effective, meaningful reform,” according to a draft of the political declaration seen by Reuters.

Pushing the world body to reform, Trump has previously described the US contributions to the United Nations as “peanuts compared to the important work.”

When ambassadors to the United Nations Security Council gathered at the White House in late April, the US president described the UN as “an under-performer” albeit one that has “tremendous potential”.

“We must also take a close look at the UN budget. Costs have absolutely gone out of control,” Trump said.

Donald Trump previously lambasted the UN shortly after the world body voted to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in late December. The then president-elect said on Twitter that the UN had “such great potential”, but had grown to become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”

“As to the UN, things will be different after January 20th,” Trump warned, referring to his inauguration.

The new US leader is set to formally address the 193-member organization for the first time on September 19.  According to the preliminary plan for the forum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is set to deliver his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 21.

Courtesy, RT

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies
Russia won’t stop delivering oil products to North Korea, as dialogue, not sanctions, is the only solution to the crisis, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

South Korea has proposed cutting all crude supplies to the North in response to the latest missile test.

“Pyongyang needs to be involved in dialogue, conditions must be created in which Pyongyang will feel secure, and that will allow us to search for solutions,” Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

The spokesman stressed the current level of oil supplies to North Korea from Russia is minimal, so the suspension of them is pointless.

“The Russian president repeatedly, including at a press conference in Beijing, said the volume of trade and economic cooperation and the supply of oil and oil products to Korea is at an insignificant level, at a meager level, so in this case, it is hardly reasonable to continue talking about this. There are no significant quantities there,” said Peskov.

Pyongyang has been buying most of its oil from China and trying to boost imports from Russia as an alternative source of energy.

Earlier this week, South Korea pushed for a global embargo on oil exports to North Korea as the UN Security Council discusses a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang.

The proposal followed Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful missile test it claimed involved a hydrogen bomb.

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea https://on.rt.com/8mb2 

Photo published for Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Moscow and Seoul have agreed to develop projects involving North Korea.

rt.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the idea of driving Pyongyang into a corner with sanctions pressure to solve the current crisis didn’t make sense.

“It is clear that it is impossible to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula by sanctions alone and pressure,” the president said at the economic forum in Vladivostok, following talks with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In.

Courtesy, RT

The BRICS strike back

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
The BRICS strike back
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.

And they won’t be intimidated/derailed by the crumbling unipolar order.

Xiamen made it clear the BRICS are all-out engaged to “redress North-South development imbalances,” with Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasizing the necessity of a more just international order, echoing President Putin’s calls for a “fair multipolar world,” and “against protectionism and new barriers to global trade.”

Xi, the host at Xiamen, where he was once mayor, went out of his way to stress, “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance.”

One of the key planks of what is a concerted geopolitical/geoeconomic drive will start to be implemented via an upcoming BRICS-wide customs union. It’s all about connectivity – in trade, commerce, and finance. And that also dictates investment and business openings rolling in sync, as well as a sharper role for development funds and the BRICS’s own New Development Bank (NDB).

Enter, thus, multiple South-South “dialogues,” like those proposed in Xiamen with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea, and Tajikistan.

The dialogues, which will inevitably evolve into business and investment deals, are at the core of ‘BRICS Plus’; the overarching concept, proposed last March by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding South-South partnership/cooperation.

What this will mean, in the immediate future, is an even further, complex interpolation of BRICS Plus with the already converging New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

All these economic/political vectors are advancing in sync. The SCO may be essentially focused on security, countering jihadism or even solving border disputes, but it has also been developing the economic cooperation front. India and Pakistan have become SCO full members this year. Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey are observers, and will soon become full members. Egypt and post-war Syria want in. The SCO’s geopolitical reach is fast becoming pan-Eurasian.
And that’s reflected, for instance, in the Xiamen Declaration proposing an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation process, “including the Moscow Format of consultations” and the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul process.”

This means, essentially, the BRICS supporting not a surge of Pentagon troops but an all-Asian (and not Western) Afghan peace process brokered by the SCO, of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member.

And this course of action once again graphically shows how the core of the BRICS is and will continue to be, what I call “RC”: the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Triple Win!

It was RC, not by accident, that suggested the only possible solution for the Korean Peninsula stand off, that is “double freezing,” put forward by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministry in early July. Pyongyang ceases all missile launches and nuclear tests, Washington/Seoul cease their monster military exercises. Needless to say, the ‘War Party’ in Washington, as well as Trump’s generals, vetoed the idea.

Flagship project under the  Initiative! China-built 688-km mega railway begins construction in Malaysia

But just as the BRICS wrapped it all up in Xiamen, the action started at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok; once again, all about economic convergence, focusing on Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and crucially, both Koreas.

Enter RC, once again, as peace negotiators, able to practice diplomacy with both Pyongyang and Seoul at an international forum. RC – with Russia in the forefront – solved the Syrian tragedy. While RC has a plan for both Afghanistan and North Korea, the unipolars only have sanctions and bombs.

I have sketched elsewhere other aspects of BRICS, such as the current internal politico-economic tragedy in Brazil, as well as outsiders India-Japan pushing to counteract the BRICS/BRI/SCO convergence via an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).

But the holy of the holies – and it’s never enough to stress it – is what I call the Triple Win triad of the future: oil-yuan-gold. This is one of the prime outcomes of a strategy the BRICS have been discussing, behind closed doors, at their summits since the previous decade – when Lula was still Brazil’s president: how to bypass the US dollar.

President Putin has hinted at “the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” – code for US dollar unipolarity. Beijing now is stepping up the game via a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

Putin: Old economic models based on ‘protectionism and unlawful restrictions’ cannot sustain global growth https://on.rt.com/8blp 

That might as well represent the burial ritual for the US sanctions dementia. It’s a categorical imperative for Eurasia integration to be able to bypass any manifestations of this disease by trading energy in yuan or in their own, local, currencies.

In parallel, something RC, via the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China, have been developing all these years – ruble-yuan swaps – will spread out to other BRICS/BRI/SCO members. The concept of trading in their own currencies will reach, of course, all number of aspiring BRICS Plus members.

The late Zbig ‘Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski Doctrine – preventing, by all means, the emergence of a peer competitor – has long ago been pronounced dead. What we see instead is the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but an alliance of peer competitors (RC), with a geo-economic pull all across the Global South.

More than enough for any unipolar brain to go nuclear.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy, RT

S. Korea to deploy new THAAD launchers just 3 days after announcement

S. Korea to deploy new THAAD launchers just 3 days after announcement
South Korea is moving swiftly to install four new Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) rocket launchers on its territory. They will be installed this week, despite protests from residents who have cited numerous concerns over the missile defense system.

US Forces Korea (USFK) will deploy the launchers at its new base in Seongju, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul, on Thursday, according to the South Korean defense ministry, cited by Yonhap news agency.

The ministry stressed the urgent need to mobilize the launchers amid growing threats from North Korea, which had its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday.

Although the ministry did not provide an exact time for the installation, a residents’ group cited by Yonhap said it had confirmed the plan “through various channels,” adding that it was due to take place at 2am local time on Thursday.

Despite stressing the need for urgency, the ministry has said the move is “provisional,” stating that an additional environmental impact assessment of the THAAD system is needed.

“There is no change in the government’s position to make the final decision on whether the THAAD system will be deployed (in South Korea) after carrying out the general environmental impact assessment of the entire site thoroughly and fairly,” the ministry said.

Many residents have expressed concerns that THAAD – which is designed to shoot down short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles – will cause environmental and health problems for locals, due to its emission of electromagnetic waves. Others say the system will cause Seongju to become a prime target for North Korean attacks.

South Koreans have taken to the streets in recent months to protest the missile defense system, worried by the escalation of the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain around the US embassy in Seoul in June, with protesters holding signs which read “Koreans hate THAAD” and “Yes to peace talks,” as well as banners aimed at US President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to the country.

That same month, anti-THAAD activists had a tense standoff with police in Seongju over protesters attempting to stop and inspect vehicles which they suspected could be secretly delivering supplies for the missile defense system.

In May, a group of Seongju residents submitted a petition to South Korea’s Constitutional Court demanding an immediate halt to any further operations and deployment elements of THAAD in their country.

Thousands of police will likely be deployed on Thursday to prevent additional clashes at the site, according to Yonhap.

The defense ministry’s Wednesday announcement came just two days after it vowed to install the four additional launchers, saying they would “soon be tentatively deployed through South Korea-US consultations in order to counter North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats.” There are currently two THAAD launchers in operation at the Seongju base.

The ministry also said on Monday that it would “push for the option of deploying strategic assets such as the US carrier strike group and strategic bombers after consultation with the US.”

Meanwhile, North Korea shows no signs of ending its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, calling its recent nuclear test and other “self-defense” measures a “gift package” for the US, warning that others are on the way if Washington continues its “reckless provocations.”

The Sunday nuclear test, which Pyongyang said involved a hydrogen bomb which can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), prompted US President Donald Trump to respond by saying that Washington was considering cutting trade with countries which do business with Pyongyang.

The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.

The US is also expected to present a North Korean sanctions resolution at the UN, and is aiming for a vote to take place next week, AFP reported on Monday.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis cannot be resolved by sanctions alone, and urged the international community not to push Pyongyang into a corner.

“It is clear that it is impossible to solve the problems of the Korean peninsula by sanctions and pressure alone,” Putin said at the economic forum in Vladivostok, following talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

“One shouldn’t give in to emotions and drive North Korea into a corner,” he continued, adding that all parties need to show composure and avoid “steps that lead to an escalation of tension.”

“Without political and diplomatic tools, it is very difficult to shift the situation” on the Korean peninsula, Putin said.

To be more precise, I think it is altogether impossible,” he added.

Russia and China have proposed a ‘double-freeze’ plan which would see Pyongyang suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military drills.

“We call on all interested parties to take a closer look at this initiative which, in our view, offers a realistic way to reduce tensions and gradually approach a settlement,” Putin said on Wednesday.

However, the plan – which China has also urged all parties to “seriously consider” – was previously rejected by Washington, with State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert stating last month that the US is “allowed” to conduct exercises with its ally and “that’s just not going to change.”

Courtesy, RT

Diplomatic war: From Obama’s expulsion of Russian embassy staff to Trump’s closure of SF consulate

Diplomatic war: From Obama’s expulsion of Russian embassy staff to Trump’s closure of SF consulate
A series of diplomatic ‘tit-for-tat’ steps since Barack Obama’s expulsion of Russian staff last year has severely strained relations between Russia and US. In its latest move, citing a “spirit of parity,” Washington gave Moscow 2 days to shut down its San Francisco consulate.

December 29, 2016: Obama expels Russian diplomats, confiscates diplomatic property

Just days before the New Year celebrations, then-US President Barack Obama declared 35 Russian diplomats in the US “persona non grata” and gave them 72 hours to leave the country. The decision affected 96 people – the officials and their families, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

Obama described those expelled as “intelligence operatives,” having alleged that the Russian embassy staff acted in a “manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status.” Washington also closed two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland. Those were vacation retreats, which the US claimed Moscow used for intelligence-related purposes.

READ MORE: US sanctions Russia: Who, why & how we got here

The Kremlin resisted retaliatory measures suggested by its foreign ministry so as not to ruin the holidays for American diplomats. “We reserve the right to retaliate, but we will not sink to the level of this irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy. We will take further moves on restoring Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of President-elect Donald Trump adopts,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the time.

READ MORE: ‘Putin behaved like only adult in the room’ as outgoing Obama ratchets up US-Russia tensions 

To justify the expulsions, the Obama administration blamed Russia for allegedly interfering in the US presidential election which saw Republican candidate Donald Trump become president. No evidence of Moscow’s interference or hacking has ever been made public by the US intelligence community.

Moscow denied accusations of Russia aiding Trump and said it’s “reminiscent of a witch hunt,” with Putin noting that the US is not “a banana republic” for others to interfere with its people’s choice and determine its political course.

July 25, 2017: Congress approves unilateral anti-Russia sanctions bill

Despite the new US president’s apparent intentions to build better relations with Moscow, and after months of contacts through various diplomatic channels that led to reassurances, Trump signed legislation that imposed new sanctions against Russia at the beginning of August.

Passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the new legislation partially stripped Trump of his presidential authority to formulate a foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia, by limiting his ability to ease sanctions without the approval from Congress.

Trump signed the ‘Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ but noted it was “seriously flawed” and had “clearly unconstitutional provisions” that encroach on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate foreign policy.

Having discussed Washington’s sanctions policy with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the US law on sanctions against Russia “has become another link in the chain of unfriendly steps and dangerous for international stability, striking a powerful blow to the prospects for bilateral cooperation.”

July 28, 2017: Moscow tells US to cut embassy staff down to size

Following the legislation’s approval by the US Congress, the Kremlin hit back, targeting the American diplomatic missions in Russia.

More:  will have to leave Russia as a result of Washington’s own policies –  http://on.rt.com/8j43 

Photo published for Putin: 755 US embassy staff in Russia must go, time to show we won’t leave anything unanswered — RT...

Putin: 755 US embassy staff in Russia must go, time to show we won’t leave anything unanswered — RT…

The US embassy in Russia will have to cut its staff by 755 people as a result of Washington’s policies, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in an exclusive interview with Rossiya 1 TV.

rt.com

Moscow ordered the US State Department to limit the number of its personnel in Russia to 455, bringing it in line with the number of Russian diplomats in the US. President Putin said 755 American staff would have to leave by September 1.

READ MORE: US compounds in Moscow: What they lose and what they get to keep (PHOTOS)

Moscow also took back property used by American mission staff in the Russian capital, barring embassy workers from the retreat in the renowned Serebryany Bor park and forest area as well as storage facilities in the south of Moscow.

August 21, 2017: US cuts back visa operations in Russia

In response, the US embassy in Russia announced it was suspending all “non-immigrant visa operations” in Russia as of August 23. Visa operations would resume in September, but only at the main embassy building in Moscow. Russians would no longer be able to apply for visas at US consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

UPDATE: Russia will not act against US citizens as retaliatory step to US visa decision – Lavrov https://on.rt.com/8kwq 

Photo published for US embassy in Russia temporarily halts issue of non-immigrant visas — RT News

US embassy in Russia temporarily halts issue of non-immigrant visas — RT News

The US embassy in Russia is suspending all “nonimmigrant visa operations” in Russia as of August 23. Visa operations will be resumed only in the main embassy building in Moscow on September 1.

rt.com

Lavrov said the visa decision had been made to worsen Russian citizens’ attitude toward their authorities, with his ministry adding the move had “an obvious political connotation.”

Russians will have to wait for 85 days for an appointment at the US embassy in Moscow if they want to apply for standard tourist visas, according to the State Department.

The appointment waiting time is 53 days for other non-immigrant visas, such as business ones. Before the announcement, the time limits were reportedly much shorter, even during high season.

August 31, 2017: US orders closure of Russian consulate

Though the decision to cut back consular operations in Russia was made by the State Department and not Moscow, the Trump administration cited “the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians” to order the closure of Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, California and two diplomatic annexes in Washington, DC and New York City, on August 31.

Russia was given 2 days’ notice to implement the decision.

“The US is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement announcing the move. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed to reporters that Trump himself made the decision.

Lavrov “expressed regret over the escalation of tensions,” noting they were not initiated by Russia. He told Tillerson that Moscow would “closely study” the new US measures and would inform Washington of its reaction in due course.

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