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Russia expels some US embassy staff

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view of the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on August 21, 2017 (file photo by Reuters)

Russia's Foreign Ministry has ordered a number of United States embassy staff to leave the country in a diplomatic tit-for-tat move.

The RIA news agency reported on Wednesday that those US embassy staff who had been residing in Moscow for over three years had been ordered to leave the country by the end of January 2022.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announcement came after the country's ambassador to Washington revealed last week that more than two dozen Russian diplomats and their families were being expelled from the United States and would leave on January 30 next year.

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with the Soloviev Live YouTube channel aired late on Saturday that the expulsion of the Russian embassy staff would cause a serious problem for work at the embassy. "Our diplomats are being expelled... A large group of my comrades, 27 people with families, will leave us on January 30... We are facing a serious staff shortage," he said.

Russia has previously said that since 2016, when US-Russia diplomatic relations suffered a downturn, over 100 of its diplomats had been ordered by US officials to leave the US with their families.

Meanwhile, as of October 29, nearly 200 Russian diplomats were still in their jobs in the United States, including the staff of the Russian mission to the United Nations, according to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

US President Joe Biden's administration said last month that the staff of the US mission in Russia had shrunk to 120 from 1,200 in early 2017 after a series of expulsions and restrictions, and it was difficult to continue with anything other than a caretaker presence at the embassy.

The US Embassy in Moscow stopped processing non-diplomatic visas this year. The US State Department said the US Embassy in Moscow could stop performing most of its consular activities in 2022.

Last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov asked Washington to beef up its presence in Moscow by sending more embassy staff to Russia to resume US visa services.

"We call on the US to strengthen its presence in Moscow and send new employees so that at least consular services in Russia are provided in a more or less normal volume," Ryabkov said.

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