NY Times: "Expelling Diplomats, a Furious Kremlin Escalates a Crisis”

by Joseph McKeown

In response to the US government’s expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States and closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle, Russia has responded by announcing the expulsion of sixty American diplomats along with envoys from other countries as well as the closing of the American Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. The crisis is the result of investigations into the March 4 poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury, England that showed Russia was likely responsible. The Consulate in St. Petersburg has been closed effective March 31, and the US Embassy in Russia notified Americans in the St. Petersburg consular district that they should contact the US Embassy in Moscow for all emergency assistance and routine services.

Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the Department of State, confirms that the US Consulate closure will delay visa processing and issuance for Russian nationals. Individuals who had scheduled appointments at the US Consulate in Petersburg have received cancellation notices with instructions to check ustraveldocs.com for updates.  The US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok had only recently resumed limited nonimmigrant visa interviews at a reduced scale late last year as a result of Russia's drastic cuts to their personnel, which Russia had instituted last year after Congress ordered sanctions against the country for meddling in the US 2016 election.