US Embassy staff deployed in Moscow for over 3 years must leave by 31 Jan

The Nation  |  Dec 01, 2021

Moscow previously vowed to respond to Washington's plans to expel 27 Russian diplomats and their families in the coming weeks.

US Embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years must leave Russia by 31 January 2022, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

If Washington fails to compromise on the issue of Russian diplomats, another group of US diplomats will have to leave Russia by 1 July, the ministry warned.

The announcement comes a day after Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Washington was de facto expelling Russian diplomats.

"The American side is trying to mislead the local and world public, deliberately distorting facts. We are credited with something that has nothing to do with reality. The situation is exactly the opposite," Antonov said.

The ambassador added that in December 2020, the US State Department unilaterally set a three-year limit on long-term assignments for employees of the Embassy in Washington and Russian consulates general in New York and Houston.

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“Regarding other diplomatic missions, there is a five-year period of stay in the US. The statement that the departure of 55 Russian diplomats cannot be regarded as expulsion does not stand up to criticism either. It was clearly indicated to us that in case of refusal to comply with this requirement, the Russians would be deprived of immunity and other diplomatic privileges. So, the talk is actually about expulsion," the ambassador stressed.

Antonov called on Washington to return to international obligations regarding diplomatic property and the normal practice of the operation of diplomatic missions.

"Our proposals remain on the negotiating table," he said.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy warned that every Russian diplomat in the United States faces the risk of expulsion, stressing that the overall situation is unpredictable.

"Nobody is safe, including myself, because you never know what will come to the minds of our American friends," he said, adding that the complexity of the situation prevents Russia and the United States from achieving a "renaissance" in their bilateral relations.

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Although Russian diplomats working at the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York experience fewer difficulties than their colleagues in Washington, they still face issues caused by restrictions imposed by the US government that obstruct the working process, Polyanskiy said.

"The status [of the diplomatic mission to] the United Nations helps us a lot but… we still face very problematic and nervous situations when we want to bring somebody here to the United Nations, which should be done automatically as part of US obligations as the host country," he added.

On Monday, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter claimed the order for 27 Russian diplomats to leave the United States by late January is not an expulsion, as Moscow can assign other diplomatic members instead of those departing ones. Porter called it a measure to ensure "greater parity."

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