Russia says US forcing its diplomats out as tensions escalate

US and Russia have been feuding over the number of diplomats at each other's embassies. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) - Russia's ambassador to Washington said more than 50 diplomats and their family members will have to leave the United States by mid-2022, in the latest sign of tensions between the former Cold War enemies.

"Our diplomats are being thrown out," Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in an interview on a Russian state television anchor's YouTube channel. "We are facing serious staff shortages."

Twenty-seven diplomats and family members have to leave by Jan. 30 and an additional 28 by June 30, the Foreign Ministry said.

With US-Russian relations at the most fraught in decades, the two sides have been feuding over the number of diplomats at each other's embassies.

In April, Russia banned the US from employing its citizens, forcing the embassy in Moscow to cut consular staff by 75 per cent and suspend most visa services, after dismissing almost 200 local employees and other contractors.

Antonov's latest comments confirmed impending departures that Moscow has warned of for months.

In September, the US required 24 Russian diplomatic staff to leave the country after their visas expired and American authorities issued visas for only 10 other Russian diplomats to replace them, the Foreign Ministry said.

The State Department in Washington and the US Embassy in Moscow didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

In August, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US was enforcing a maximum three-year validity for Russian diplomats' visas, after which they have to apply for an extension, shorter than the five-year-assignments allowed for most foreign missions.

Russia has complained that policy is discriminatory, since many of its diplomats typically spend much longer on US postings.

The US has about 120 diplomatic staff in Russia, while Moscow maintains about 400 in the US, including at its mission to the United Nations.

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