Russia has announced Monday that two dozen of its diplomats in the United States will essentially be booted from the country after their visas expire during the first week of September.
"Russia's ambassador to the United States said Washington had asked 24 Russian diplomats to leave the country by Sept. 3 after their visas expired," Reuters writes. "Anatoly Antonov did not say whether the US request was prompted by any particular dispute, and there was no immediate comment from Washington."
Moscow has cited stringent visa procedures which will likely bar the diplomats from being able to renew them. "Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures," Ambassador Antonov said on Sunday.
"We hope that common sense will prevail and we will be able to normalize the life of Russian and American diplomats in the United States and Russia on the principle of reciprocity," the top Russian diplomat in the US added.
Despite the momentary 'bright spot' for potential US-Russia rapprochement seen on June 16 during Biden and Putin's Geneva summit where the two vowed to re-open talks on arms control and cybersecurity threats, and also crucially decided to restore each's ambassadors to their posts, this latest development appears to be likely retaliation for this:
The United States said Friday it has laid off nearly 200 local staffers working for its diplomatic missions in Russia ahead of an August 1 deadline set by the Kremlin for their dismissal. The move is the latest in a series of measures taken by both sides that have strained U.S.-Russia relations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the layoffs are regrettable and something the U.S. had hoped to avert, despite a sharp deterioration in ties between Moscow and Washington, which show few signs of improvement.
All of this was based on prior tit-for-tat escalating moves, given earlier in the year Russia announced a new ban on its citizens working at the US embassy in Moscow and consulates in Yekaterinburg and Vladivosto. The US had earlier expelled Russian diplomats from US soil.
Blinken had said further of last Friday's local staffer layoff in Russia :"These unfortunate measures will severely impact the US mission to Russia's operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government."
Meanwhile, Russian ambassador Antonov urged that instead of more 'counter moves' in the diplomatic arena which will only further hurt and strain communications, "As an option, we can debate on cyber threats to arms control systems, etc," he offered. Last week the US and Russia did began nuclear arms control talks based on a prior Biden-Putin agreement made in Geneva.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had told the WSJ: "We are just at the very beginning of what I hope would be a sustainable process," but he added the caveat: "At this point in time we in Moscow don’t have any sense if we would be able to succeed."