The United States Embassy in Moscow announced Monday it would temporarily stop issuing all non-immigrant visas in Russian Federation and then severely curtail visa operations as it slashes its staff to comply with the latest salvo in Washington's diplomatic standoff with Moscow.
The US embassy in Moscow will also cease issuing visas to citizens of Belarus - which does not have a US embassy - and they will now be redirected to Kiev, Warsaw and Vilnius.
The decision would come as a blow to Russian tourists, almost 250,000 of whom visited the US last year, according to The Associated Press.
Visa operations at the US consulates, located in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, will "remain suspended indefinitely", according to Reuters. "We will maintain sufficient staff to carry out essential elements of our mission".
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov that a total of 755 United States diplomats and technical staff members are to leave Russia. This was itself a tit-for-tat response to USA sanctions brought against Russian Federation for its alleged cyberhacking and military involvements in Ukraine and Syria.More news: Wyndham Championship 2017: Henrik Stenson Captures Win by 1 Stroke
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow. One of these consulates is in Vladivostok, a city in Russia's far east that's nearly 3,000 miles and an eight-hour flight from Moscow.
However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized the Russian decision to expel diplomats, saying that "this had created serious mistrust", and vowed that the United States would respond to Moscow's decision.
"As of 0900 Moscow time Monday, August 21, the U.S. Mission will begin canceling current nonimmigrant visa appointments countrywide", the United States mission said in a statement.
USA nonimmigrant visas cover several categories of travelers, including businesspeople, students, medical travelers and journalists.