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Russia says 'won't forgive' US after Washington denies Russian journalists entry visas

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russia has strongly condemned the United States for its refusal to issue entry visas to journalists who were meant to accompany Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

"We won't forget, we will not forgive this," said Lavrov on Sunday as he gets ready to chair UN Security Council meetings after his country assumed the presidency of the council in April.

Lavrov denounced the US' refusal to issue visas to Russian journalists as "stupid," saying, "A country that calls itself the strongest, smartest, freest, and fairest, chickened out." He added that this "showed the worth of their (the Americans') solemn assurances on freedom of speech."

Presidency of the Security Council rotates alphabetically among its 15 member nations and Russia has assumed the rotating presidency of the council for a month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said the US' denying the visas was a blatant manipulation of the freedom of speech issue and of journalists' rights.

Russia's UN mission, for its part, joined Lavrov in condemning Washington, saying on Twitter that "the United States violated again its obligations" under the UN headquarters agreement by denying visas to Russian journalists.

Meanwhile, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned of more retaliatory steps in response to Washington's measure.

"We will find formats to respond to this so that the Americans remember for a long time that such things must not be done," Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"The Americans pulled yet another outrageous and totally unacceptable trick in preparation for the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the events of the outgoing Russian presidency of the UN Security Council. A group of Russian journalists who were to accompany Lavrov on this trip were not issued visas until the very last moment. The Americans pretended that they were working and that a solution was about to be found," he told reporters.

RIA Novosti also cited a diplomatic source as saying that, following the incident, "American journalists will experience all the discomfort and inconvenience."

The US State Department, however, claimed that the development had to do with, what it called, Russia's restrictions on the US embassy staffing in Moscow.

Filing Russian visa applications as early as possible "is especially important because of Russia's unwarranted actions against our Embassy in Russia, including the forced termination of local and third country national staff, have severely limited our staffing and therefore our capacity to process visas," a spokesperson for the department said.

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