The U.S. Embassy in Russia has said it is still “too early” to say how large cuts in its staff will impact its consular operations and the issuing of visas for Russian citizens.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Friday it was ordering cuts to U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 employees by September, in response to a move by U.S. Congress to codify sanctions against Russia. The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump would sign the law.
In a televised broadcast, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday 755 U.S. diplomats in Russia would lose their status.
Following the announcement, Michael McFaul, the former Ambassador to Russia under the Obama administration, said on Twitter: “Russian citizens will be hit hardest by smaller U.S. staff at the embassy,” adding wait times would “increase dramatically.”
In a separate Tweet he said “Russians should expect to wait weeks if not months to get visas to come to the U.S.”
The comments were widely reported on by Russian media, including the state-controlled TASS and Interfax news agencies.
In written comments to The Moscow Times the embassy distanced itself from McFaul’s prediction saying the Tweets represented his personal views.
“It is still too early to try and guess how [the measures] will affect consular operations but it’s certainly possible that it could reduce them,” it said.
As of July 31, when the embassy’s website was last updated, it did not specify waiting time for visa processing.
The embassy described Moscow’s measures “regrettable and uncalled for.”