Moscow Threatens Cutting Aeroflot Service to U.S.
As if tensions between the United States and Russia were not already elevated, the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry are calling out the U.S. for the slow pace of granting visas. The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that the U.S. is making it very difficult for Russian citizens to get visas to travel to the United States. The ministry says it may consider cutting direct flights to the U.S. that are operated by Aeroflot if the U.S. does not do something to address the supposed issue. Aeroflot is the only airline with direct flights from the United States to Russia.
According to BBC:
On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry warned that the sharp reduction in the number of US entry visas issued to Russian citizens might lead to the suspension of regular flights between the two countries.
Also on Thursday, the information ministry highlighted “continuing attempts to justify a sharp reduction” in the number of US visas granted to Russian citizens by staff shortages in the consular sections and attempts “to even accuse the Russian authorities” of creating the situation.
“Indeed, the situation with the issuance of American visas in Russia is extremely depressing,” the ministry said.
Russian state media are using this as a direct criticism of the U.S. saying they have pushed back interview dates by up to 250 days. However, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow notified those applying for visas that there are delays, which have been caused by a 60 percent cut of U.S. embassy staff in Moscow and the consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok. In a release in December the U.S. Embassy put out a statement saying, “Our services, however, are not back to the levels prior to the Russian Federation’s 60 percent cut of personnel at the U.S. Embassy and three consulates. Fewer people inevitably mean fewer staff to provide visa services.”
Of course Russia is billing something else as though they are the victim of an aggressive U.S. However, it fails to note that the reduction in staff was due to their own actions. Russia’s laundry list of offenses, including annexing Crimea in 2014, interfering in the 2016 election, and many other atrocities and violations of international norms and law is not mentioned in the Russia state media. Then again, when the government controls the media apparatus throughout the country and leaves little room for free speech, it’s unlikely to see the truth behind why such delays are occurring. But for Russia, it’s always easier to play a victim — despite the fact they couldn’t be further from being a victim.