Europe

Russia blames US for Aeroflot visa 'restrictions'

An Airbus A320 of Russian carrier Aeroflot in Riga, Latvia, in 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Aeroflot is the only airline with direct flights from the US to Russia

Russia has said the US is deliberately making it difficult for Aeroflot crews to get US visas and that it is concerned at the situation.

"Obviously, these difficulties are created intentionally," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The Russian airline has spoken to the Russian authorities about the problem, an airline spokesperson told the Sputnik website.

Aeroflot is the only airline with direct flights from the US to Russia.

"We share the concerns expressed by the foreign ministry on this issue," Mr Peskov said.

"These difficulties are created intentionally, the responsibility for them lies entirely with our US colleagues," he added.

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.

"The official waiting period for the visa interview, which Washington increased to 85 days in August 2017, has recently been extended to 250 days, that is to say eight months. In other words, applying for visas is becoming meaningless.

"They [Washington] are purposefully taking it out on Russian citizens in response to Russia's independent course in the international arena."

Last year, the US decided to make Russians go to Moscow if they wanted a visa for the United States after Moscow told the US to cut 755 of its diplomatic staff in Russia.

The US embassy said that, in connection with Russia's instruction to cut staff at US diplomatic missions to 455, US consulates in Russia (in Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok) would stop issuing non-immigrant visas for an indefinite period, from 23 August.

There have been diplomatic tensions between Russia and the US since Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

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