Russia Says Most of the 24 Diplomats Ordered to Leave US Won't Be Replaced

Officials in Washington have ordered two dozen Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. by September 3, the latest in a series of tit-for-tat retaliations on both sides that have further strained U.S.-Russia relations.

The decision to oust the diplomats follows the U.S.'s removal of nearly 200 local staffers working for its diplomatic missions in Russia. Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with the National Interest magazine the embassy received a list of 24 Russian diplomats who are expected to leave next month without successors.

"Almost all of them will leave without replacements because Washington has abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures," Antonov said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Biden Meets with Putin in Switzerland
Two dozen Russian diplomats were recently ordered to leave the U.S. by September 3. U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, on June 16. DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP/Getty Images

The Russian ambassador said the situation with the embassies in both countries hasn't changed for the better since the June summit in Geneva between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden. It was after that summit that Antonov and his U.S. counterpart John Sullivan returned to their posts after being recalled for consultations.

"Russian diplomatic missions in the United States are still forced to work under unprecedented restrictions that not only remain in effect, but are stepped up," Antonov said.

"The expulsions of diplomats are implemented under far-fetched pretexts now and then. Last December the State Department unilaterally established a three-year limit on the assignment period for Russian personnel in the United States that, as far as we know, is not applied to any other country," he said.

Antonov's interview comes several days after the State Department announced laying off 182 locally employed staffers at the U.S. facilities in Russia to comply with a ban on local hires the Kremlin imposed earlier this year in response to U.S. expulsions of Russian diplomats and tit-for-tat closures of numerous diplomatic facilities in each country.

The expulsions occurred in the context of U.S. sanctions imposed over Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and crackdown on his supporters, as well as involvement in the SolarWind hack of U.S. federal agencies. All are activities that Russia has denied.

After the announcement of the ban, the U.S. Embassy in Russia suspended routine consular services and since May has been processing immigrant visas only in the case of life-or-death emergencies.

The suspension of consular services has also left Russian businessmen, exchange students and romantic partners adrift because they are no longer able to obtain U.S. visas in Russia.