The Kremlin announced today that Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Anatoly Antonov as Russia’s ambassador to the United States, replacing Sergey Kislyak.
The move comes as the U.S. embassy in Moscow has announced it is suspending all non-immigrant visa processing for Russians until Sept. 1 in response to the staff cuts ordered by the Kremlin.
In a statement on its site, the embassy said operations for all visas applications in Moscow will resume after Sept. 1 but that they will remain suspended indefinitely at the three U.S. consulates elsewhere in the country.
The embassy statement says the step is necessary “due to the Russian government-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to the announcement today during a press conference, saying, “I think a political factor is obvious to everyone here.” He said he had “just familiarized” himself with the decision and that “we will certainly look into it.”
“As for our countermeasures, as I’ve said, we should take a closer look at the decisions that the Americans have announced today,” Lavrov said. “We’ll see. I can only say one thing: We won’t take it out on American citizens.”
He added: “That is, if someone hoped that a bad example would be contagious in this case, they are mistaken.”
On July 28 Russia ordered the U.S. embassy to cut its staff by 755 in retaliation for the U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow by Congress. The State Department hasn’t confirmed the numbers, but it’s believed that the embassy employs around 1,300 people; however, only around 400 employees are American. U.S. officials have said the cuts would fall primarily on Russian local hires and that this would almost certainly affect visa operations at the embassy.