Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Foreign Ministry's demarche to the US Embassy in Russia
On July 18, Tim Richardson, a minister-counselor of the US embassy in Russia, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry of Russia to receive a strong protest in connection with US media and officials’ statements alleging that Russia denied visas to teachers at the Anglo-American School in Moscow. It was stressed that the statements are absolutely untrue and that, in reality, the situation is the opposite.
We reminded that this concerns the school under the US Embassy. The school operated at the US diplomatic mission since 1949 and was used for the education of US diplomats’ children, which was quite natural and never raised any questions.
However, in the 1990s, without agreement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, as prescribed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations for any foreign diplomatic mission department, the school moved to another building in another part of the city. Moreover, diplomats’ children turned out to be a small minority there. The school focused on providing educational services to anyone interested for a fee. Thus, the school became a commercial entity, which also contradicts diplomatic standards.
Yet, the teaching staff is still sent to Moscow by the US Department of State. The teachers arrive here with diplomatic passports, and diplomatic visas are requested for them. The US requests accreditation for them as administrative and technical employees of the embassy with all the immunities and privileges diplomatic staff are entitled to.
Over two years ago, the US launched a “visa war” against Russia’s diplomatic and consular missions in the United States. Washington has been delaying the issuing of visas to over 60 new employees of our diplomatic missions for months and even years. The number of entry denials is growing. This is being done consciously and intentionally in order to impede the rotation of the staff and hamper the normal operation of the Russian Embassy, the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN in New York, and the Consulates General of Russia.
As a result, we were forced to resort to response measures in granting visas. Since Russian diplomatic staff are not allowed to enter the US, similar approach had to be applied to the entry of US personnel to Russia. This is done also for the purpose of securing visas for our secondary school teachers working at our embassy in Washington and at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, which operate inside diplomatic missions and are not engaged in any commercial activities.
Once again, we stressed that it is the US that sends Anglo-American School teachers to Moscow as administrative and technical personnel of their embassy while at the same time denies entry to the US for the same type of personnel that work at our missions. There is no alternative for us except to literally charge a visa for a visa.
This is why the statements that Russia denied entry visas to US teachers is a blatant lie. We did not deny visas to anyone. On the contrary, we are ready to issue visas to all US mission staff working in our country, including school teachers, as soon as possible on condition that Washington displays the same attitude towards Russian personnel.
We have many times reached out to the US State Department with proposals to settle the visa issues, but always met with a refusal. The ball is still in the US’ court. Complaints over the delay of teachers’ arrival at the school affiliated with the US embassy should be addressed to Washington rather than Moscow.
It is completely up to the US authorities to unblock the visa process. They need to stop the practice of visa denials. We have long called for this.