The Trump administration has notified Congress of its intention to close the two remaining US consulates in Russia.
The State Department has told lawmakers that it intends to completely close the consulate in Vladivostok and temporarily suspend the work of the consulate in Yekaterinburg.
The notice was sent to Congress on December 10, but did not receive much attention at the time. Three days later, news broke of a major invasion, allegedly from Russia, into federal government computer systems and private computer systems. This has raised serious cybersecurity concerns.
The State Department notice, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, said the closings were caused by restrictions on the number of American diplomats allowed to work in the country imposed by the Russian authorities in 2017.
“[Эти шаги] are a reaction to the staffing problems of the US mission in Russia in connection with the restrictions on the number of personnel of the US mission imposed by Russia in 2017 and the stalemate with Russia due to diplomatic visas, ”the notice says.
After the closure of consulates, the only US diplomatic office in Russia will be the embassy in Moscow. Russia demanded the closure of the US consulate in St. Petersburg in 2018, after the US demanded the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle as part of reciprocal action over the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer in the UK.
The consulate in Vladivostok was temporarily closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and employees have already begun taking out special equipment, documents and other items. The consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg employ a total of 10 American diplomats and 33 local staff.
The exact timing of the closure of consulates has not yet been determined. According to the notice, American personnel will be transferred to the embassy in Moscow and local staff will be fired. The Department of State estimates that the closure of the consulate in Vladivostok will save $ 3.2 million a year.
As a result of the closings of consulates, vast territories of Russia, in fact, everything to the east of Moscow, will be without a US diplomatic mission. This will create serious inconvenience for American travelers in the Russian Far East, as well as for Russians seeking an American visa, since all consular services will be carried out from the embassy in Moscow.