WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The decision by the United States to pause visa applications for Russians at its embassy in Moscow was not meant to be a retaliation against the Kremlin, but was undertaken as a result of staff cuts, US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a press briefing on Wednesday.
"The United States is not retaliating against Russia in any way, shape or form… we regrettably were forced to reduce the size of our mission in Russia," Nauert stated. "Because we’ve had to reduce the number of people who adjudicate visas, we had to put a pause on visa applications for Russians who want to come to the United States right now."Nauert said the US counselor affairs offices in Russia will begin to process visas again, and Russians will be able to visit the United States, but it will be at a reduced pace.
The US embassy will have to prioritize visa applications of Americans, Nauert added.
In late July, Moscow announced that the diplomatic presence of the United States in Russia would be scaled down by 755 people to 455, the same number of diplomatic personnel Russia has in the United States. The Kremlin said the move was in response to the 2016 expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctions against Russia passed by the US Congress in July.