U.S. Embassy Reduces Workforce by 75% in Moscow, Warns Americans of Limited Services

Starting May 12, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will limit its activity to only emergency services for U.S. citizens and life-or-death emergency visa services.

The embassy said in a statement Friday it was forced to reduce its consular workforce by 75 percent because the Russian government banned the embassy and consular offices from employing foreign nationals.

Russia's move comes as retaliation for U.S. sanctions imposed over Russia's alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election and involvement in the SolarWinds hack of federal agencies. Russia has denied the accusations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said relations with the U.S. are worse than during the Cold War.

"During the Cold War, the tensions were flying high and risky crisis situations often emerged, but there was also a mutual respect," Lavrov said in a Russian state TV interview. "It seems to me there is a deficit of it now."

President Joe Biden addressed concerns about the U.S. relationship with Russia during his address to Congress Wednesday night.

"With regard to Russia, I know it concerns some of you, but I made very clear to President Putin that while we don't seek escalation...their actions will have consequences if they turn out to be true, and they turned out to be true," Biden said.

U.S. Russia Embassy
A Russian flag flies next to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on April 15. The embassy announced Friday that it will reduce its workforce by 75 percent following a hiring ban from the Russian government. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats out, targeted dozens of companies and people and imposed new curbs on Russia's ability to borrow money. Russia quickly retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials and tightening requirements for U.S. Embassy operations.

The U.S. Embassy warned that provision of emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia may also be "delayed or limited due to staff's constrained ability to travel outside of Moscow."

It warned that it's unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas and strongly urged any U.S. citizen present in Russia who has an expired visa to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government.

"We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular workforce by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible," the embassy said.

The embassy noted that non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease and it will stop offering routine notarial services, consular reports of birth abroad or passport renewal services for the foreseeable future.

Biden Russia Embassy
President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House on April 15. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo