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US' Russia Visa Suspension a 'PR Stunt' and a 'New Round of Diplomatic Standoff'

© AP Photo / Alexander ZemlianichenkoU.S. and Russian flags hung at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 28, 2017
U.S. and Russian flags hung at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 28, 2017 - Sputnik International
The recent suspension of all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia by the US is a 'PR stunt,' and an 'act of informational pressure on Moscow for unilateral concessions,' according to Russian political analysts who spoke to Sputnik about the decision of the US embassy in Russia.

"I would not regard it as some serious step. More likely, it is a PR stunt by the US, an attempt to put informational pressure on Russia to make it nervous," political analyst and historian Bogdan Bezpalko, who serves as a member of the Russian Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations, told Sputnik Radio.

He further added that the economic sanctions, which the EU imposed on Russia under US pressure, are more substantial than any problems with US visas.

A general view taken on July 31, 2017 shows the US embassy building in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin on July 30, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Bogdan Bezpalko also suggested that there could be a continuation of the so-called "diplomatic war" because the US does not want to abandon the idea of confrontation with Russia, demanding unilateral concessions, which Russia can't afford.

"Of course, I wouldn't introduce any restrictions on Russian visas to US citizens. Tit-for-tat measures won't be appropriate here, as those Americans who are eager to visit Russia, Russia's Crimea, will find an absolutely different picture here that the one which is being portrayed in the US mainstream media. Let them come," he told Sputnik.

Starting from Monday, the US embassy in Russia suspended all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia.

"Visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the US Embassy in Moscow. NIV interviews at the US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice," it said in a statement on its official website.

This photo taken on May 7, 2013 shows Russian and the US flags running up as the US Secretary of State arrives at Moscow Vnukovo Airport - Sputnik International
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"If all the nonimmigrant visas will be issued only in Moscow, what is the reason for the US Consulate in Yekaterinburg, for example?" the political analyst wondered.

He further suggested that Russia could demand to shut it down, as "there are too many American Consulates in Russia and it is not clear what they are all really doing," he said.

In a separate comment on the issue, political analyst and expert in American studies Viktor Olevich recalled that US officials have previously voiced their intention to toughen visa regulations with Russia. Washington now seems to have started implementing its threats, he said.

"It is connected with the counter-measures which Russia has introduced by setting a numerical parity between the quantity of Russian diplomats and administrative-technical personnel in the US and the number of American personnel in Russia. US authorities almost instantly started threatening that one of their counter measures would be the toughening of visa regulations for Russian citizens travelling to the US, Washington is now going through with its threats," he told Sputnik.

Viktor Olevich noted that the measures taken by the US measures have nothing to do with the volume of staff at the consulate, but are purely motivated by revenge.

A general view taken on July 31, 2017 shows the US embassy building in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin on July 30, 2017 - Sputnik International
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"We could expect other punitive measures by September 1. The US has launched a new round of its diplomatic war with Russia and intends to hit out in different directions, and the toughening of visa regulations is just a part of this," he concluded.

The US embassy claims that the move comes as "a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the US Mission [in Russia]."

In late July, Moscow announced that the diplomatic presence of the United States in Russia would be cut by 755 people to 455. However it is the same number of diplomatic personnel that Russia currently has in the US, which restores the numerical parity between the two states.

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