The US State Department claimed that the country’s authorities regret that the restrictions imposed by the Russian authorities as part of the fight against coronavirus will not allow the OSCE to send observers to the vote, TASS reports.
“The United States regrets that restrictions imposed by Russian authorities will prevent the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly from independently observing the Duma elections in September. We respect ODIHR’s professional determination that “the decision by the Russian authorities to introduce limitations to the election observation made credible independent observation impossible”. We fully support ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly in their principled position that they cannot effectively observe the elections under such restrictive circumstances,” the Department stated.
On August 6, the Russian Ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, criticized this statement on the official Facebook page of the Russian Embassy in the USA.
“Nobody prohibits Washington from taking up a quota of 455 employees established earlier. We are ready to carefully review all the applications we receive. It is the restoration of balance in diplomatic presence that our countermeasure with regard to US diplomatic missions is aimed at. We are waiting for visa applications for Americans who will replace the locally engaged staff of the US Embassy – from consular diplomats to drivers. This will not happen automatically. We propose an honest visa exchange on an equivalent basis here,” Antonov says.
The Ambassador said that Russian officials have already submitted documents to the State Department beforehand, precisely within the specified timeframes. However, about 60 Russian employees (140 people together with their family members) are still waiting for the State Department to decide on their visa requests. The people cannot return to their motherland or come to the United States because the US Embassy in Moscow does not grant them visas as well. Moreover, the US side even resorts to cancelling valid entry permissions. According to Antonov, Americans issue visas for family members and deny visas to children at the same time.
In 2020, the American side introduced a three-year tour limits for Russian diplomats in the country and strongly encouraged 24 Russians to leave the United States by September 3, 2021; thereby it has been made clear that the receiving country is not willing to extend their documents. Even more, Russians have been repeatedly told that after three years of assignment accreditation documents, driving licenses and tax exemption cards of Russian diplomats will expire.
“It is high time for the American colleagues to stop being cunning and renew an equitable and mutually respectful dialogue that would take into consideration national interests of the two countries. We have proposed many times to return to the situation that was before December 2016 or even earlier in order to leave the diplomatic conflict for the past. […] If the United States is not ready to mutually nullify all the measures and countermeasures, we propose a tactic of small steps. In particular, we suggest excluding certain categories of staff from visa exchanges, coming to an agreement on prolongation of expired visas for diplomats for a year, etc. […] It is time to pass from words to deeds instead of putting own ends in the forefront and forgetting about Russia’s concerns,” Antonov said.