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U.S. Temporarily Halts Nonimmigrant Visas For Russians

A Russian policeman stands in front of an entrance to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Moscow in 2013.

The U.S. State Department says it will temporarily stop issuing nonimmigrant visas to Russians in response to Moscow's decision to force the U.S. to slash its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia.

The American Embassy in Moscow and consulates elsewhere in Russia are cancelling interviews for visa requests and suspending all nonimmigrant visa operations until Sept. 1, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports. After that date, the issuance of nonimmigrant visas will resume at the embassy in Moscow, but not at the other consulates, Michele says.

The move follows President Vladimir Putin's order late last month for Washington to cut 755 diplomats and other personnel in Russia by Sept. 1. That would leave 455 staffers, matching the number of Russian diplomatic and technical staff in the U.S.

Putin's decision came in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The order to expel U.S. diplomatic staff "calls into question Russia's seriousness about pursuing better relations," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

Reacting to the latest move, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow that Russia will "study" the announcement but that it "is not going to take it out on U.S. citizens."

Also on Monday, the Kremlin announced that Anatoly Antonov would be the next ambassador, replacing Sergey Kislyak, who has figured in the ongoing investigation of possible links between Russia and Trump campaign and White House officials.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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