The US State Department said Friday that Moscow is forcing it to lay off nearly 200 Russian employees in its Russia diplomatic missions, saying the move will constrict diplomatic efforts and embassy operations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said 182 Russian employees and dozens of contractors in Moscow, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg would be let go after a Russian government order in April in retaliation for US actions against Russia. “Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force,” Blinken said in a statement. “These unfortunate measures will severely impact the US mission to Russia’s operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government,” he said.
In April, Washington expelled 10 Russian diplomats, expanded restrictions on Russian banks and blacklisted 32 Russians over the Kremlin’s US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity. In retaliation, Russia expelled 10 US diplomats and forbid the US mission from hiring non-US nationals, starting on August 1.
The moves intensified the chill between the two powers that was not improved after President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in June in Geneva. “Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia,” Blinken said.