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Russian Consulate in Houston May Be Left With 2 Diplomats by End of 2021, Consul General Says

CC0 / WhisperToMe / Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Houston
Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Houston  - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.09.2021
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The Russian Consulate General in Houston, Texas, may be forced to operate with only two diplomats by the end of this year unless the situation with respect to the United States' issuing visas improves, Consul General Alexander Zakharov said.
"Frankly, if the situation does not change, then by the end of this year only two diplomats will remain in the Consulate General: your humble servant and the deputy consul-adviser. This is less than a quarter of the required number of people," Zakharov said.
The consul said the two people performing consular activities - signing documents, officially contacting the US authorities, visiting persons under arrest or imprisonment - would have to cover 13 US states in the south and Midwest of the United States, where "tens of thousands of our compatriots live."
Zakharov said the Consulate General would also have to reduce the number of citizens it can receive and expects an increase in the response time.
"Well, if the situation doesn’t change, my deputy and I will have to recall our young years and, with the permission of Moscow, as they say in our professional jargon ‘sit at the window’ ourselves - receive citizens, draw up powers of attorney, print passports and visas, answer letters, and so on," Zakharov said. "Alas, in this situation we will have no choice but to limit the reception."
Zakharov explained that after the closures of the Russia’s Consulates General in San Francisco and Seattle at the request of the US government, the main burden of serving Russian citizens living on United States’ West Coast fell on the diplomatic facility in Houston.
Russian Consul in Houston Says Hopes Upcoming US-Russia Talks Improve Work of Mission
Moscow hopes that the next round of the US-Russia talks will lead to positive outcomes in the work of Russian diplomats in the US, Zakharov told Sputnik.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said earlier that about 60 employees of Russia’s diplomatic mission (with family members more than 140 people) are currently awaiting a decision on the visa requests submitted to the US State Department
“I would like to hope that the planned next round of consultations on bilateral issues will nevertheless lead to positive changes, and it will be possible to find mutually acceptable solutions,” Zakharov stated.
When asked whether there has been any improvement in the work of the diplomatic mission in the United States since the Geneva summit, Zakharov, stressed, “Unfortunately, at this stage, no.”
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“The way our American partners are 'slowing down' the solution to this problem gives the impression that only the Russian side needs the normal, full-fledged work of diplomatic missions and consular offices,” he noted. "All constructive proposals emanating from Moscow disappear without a trace in the bureaucratic obstacles of American departments.”
Zakharov went on to say that Russia does not put forward any unreasonable, exaggerated demands.
“We are talking about an equal, respectful attitude towards each other, a reasonable interpretation of the provisions of international normative acts regulating the sphere of diplomacy,” he stressed. “In response, there is either silence or new restrictions.”
Zakharov explained that the relatively recent efforts by Washington are limiting the duration of business trips of employees of Russian overseas missions in the United States to three years.
"It is noteworthy that neither the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, nor the Consular Convention between the USSR and the United States of June 1, 1964, even in principle, do not imply such a condition,” he said. “Yes, these documents contain provisions regarding the number of personnel of embassies and consulates (it should be within 'reasonable and normal' limits), but there is not a word about the time frames.”
Zakharov pointed out that by such steps, Washington is trying to influence the personnel policy and the rules of rotation of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the US.
“That defies logic,” he stated. “This is still the sovereign right of the directing side. And, as always, only the Russians were 'lucky,' diplomats of other states, as far as we know, are not limited in terms of stay.”
Zakharov underscored that the move has impacted the diplomatic mission in Houston in the most negative way.
“My colleagues, whose three-year business trips are coming to an end, have to return home without replacement. That is, there is simply no one to work,” he explained. “Only in the last six months, several employees have left in this way.”
Commenting on finding a replacement for the diplomats, Zakharov stressed that each diplomat is one of a kind.
“When traveling abroad, these people face high demands ranging from sophisticated professional preparation to the state of health,” he said. “The main thing is that the Americans continue to pursue a policy of 'visa containment' by not issuing visas to prepared candidates. And if earlier separate cases of so-called visa exchanges were carried out, recently, the state of affairs has stalled.”
The Russia-US dialogue on resuming the normal process of work of diplomatic missions has seen no progress, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier in September, adding that Washington makes attempts to pressure Moscow in order to bargain one-sided advantages for itself.
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