Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

August 21, 2017

Question: One hour ago, the response to Moscow’s measures concerning the US diplomatic corps and diplomatic missions in Russia was published on the US Embassy website. Specifically, it said that issuance of non-immigration visas will be suspended from August 23 to later resume in a significantly reduced scope. Starting from September 1, all interviews will only be held at the US Embassy in Moscow. This will affect application processing times. Moreover, the US Embassy in Moscow and the Consulate General in St Petersburg will stop accepting visa applications from citizens of Belarus. How would you comment this situation? Is retaliation possible?
Sergey Lavrov: I have just become aware of this decision. I only read the media reports but we will examine it more thoroughly.
As my first reaction, I can say the following. As you know, when at the end of last year the Obama administration was in its final throes and seeking to sabotage prospects of the Russia-US relations under the new administration, it imposed tough sanctions and demanded the deportation of our diplomats, which was absolutely illegitimate and a violation of international law, and seized Russia’s property, we did not respond and only responded when the US Congress, in a Russophobic rage, passed a new and quite far-reaching set of sanctions. Our response was as balanced as possible and strictly within the limits of diplomatic practice and traditions. In response to actual seizure of our diplomatic property, we asked the United States to stop using their diplomatic property in Moscow and to reduce the total number of diplomats and operating personnel of US foreign missions in the Russian Federation to the number equal to Russia’s staff in the US. We assumed that like Russia’s, the US diplomatic school and diplomatic service has established good traditions and experience in training highly competent professionals who can deal with the tasks of foreign embassies and consulates and have modern technology for successful operations.
It would be disrespectful of us to say that equalising the number of employees of US foreign missions in Russia and the Russian foreign missions in the United States would seriously limit the US diplomatic service’s capabilities to perform its consular functions, including issuance of visas. I believe the true reason for the decisions announced today is different. My first impression was that the decision is another attempt to incur Russian citizens’ displeasure with the authorities. This is the well-known logic of those who organise colour revolutions and simply inertia from the Obama administration. The same logic explains the decision that citizens of Belarus must, from now on, apply for US visas not from Moscow and St Petersburg but travel to Vilnius, Kiev and Warsaw. This measure clearly has a political motivation.
As concerns our action in response, as I already said, the decisions announced by the Americans today need careful consideration. We’ll see. I can only say one thing. We will not take it out on American citizens. If anyone was hoping that a bad example would be contagious, they were wrong.