MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Moscow will not respond to the US visa restrictions for the Russians after the US embassy in Russia suspended processing of non-migration visas, citing staff cuts, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday.
"With regard to visas and this visa nightmare that the United States has created, there will be no response to it," Zakharova said in an interview with the Dozhd broadcaster, adding that Washington's decision was a "purposeful move against Russian citizens."
The spokeswoman also expressed surprise at the length of the period required by US authorities to process visas and perform necessary procedures.
"What could be processed for 80 days? Or for 50 days? I read sometimes that the United States say that they issue a large number of visas to our citizens… But, you know, it might have been true for the situation 20 years ago. Now we have a comparable number of issued visas. We issue… a large number of visas to US citizens. We do it without a hitch and without any personal, face-to-face interviews, which are conducted in the US embassy. People can submit documents online," Zakharova stressed.
On Wednesday, US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the decision by Washington to pause visa applications for Russians was not meant to be retaliation against Moscow, but was undertaken due to technical reasons caused by staff cuts.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on July 28 suspended the use of all US Embassy warehouses and its compound in Moscow and also offered the US to cut down the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people by September 1. The move came amid a new US anti-Russia sanctions bill and follows a series of restriction measures imposed by Washington since 2014. It is similar to Washington's decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats and suspend the use of diplomatic assets by Moscow in late 2016.