World US warns Moscow embassy could stop functioning due to visa row
French ambassador ordered out of Belarus
No official reason given but media reports say diplomat expelled as he handed credentials to FM and not the president.AFP news agency, citing the French embassy in Minsk, did not say why the ambassador, Nicolas de Bouillane de Lacoste, was expelled.
The US embassy in Moscow could stop performing most functions next year unless there is progress with Russia on increasing the number of visas for diplomats, a US official warned Wednesday.
The United States earlier this month stopped processing visas in Moscow, with Russians obliged to head to the US embassy in Warsaw.
"We need to make progress soon," a senior State Department official told reporters.
"We're going to confront the situation -- not next month, but sometime next year -- where it's just difficult for us to continue with anything other than a caretaker presence at the embassy," he said.
Visa extension flagged for Afghan evacuees
The immigration minister has foreshadowed a possible extension to the visas of thousands of Afghans evacuated from the country after the Taliban takeover.Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has foreshadowed the possibility of an extension to thousands of visa holders in Australia who were flown to safety after the fall of the Afghan government.
"We will do everything humanly possible to keep that mission open," he said, while warning that more functions of the embassy, such as sending diplomatic cables, would become difficult without more staff.
He said that the United States lacked staff for basic tasks such as opening and closing the embassy gates, ensuring secure telephone calls and operating the elevators.
Russia on August 1 barred embassies from hiring Russian or third-country staff, forcing the United States to lay off more than 200 locals at missions across Russia, according to the State Department.
The United States complains of a lack of reciprocity with Moscow counting local staff in its tally of US diplomats while Washington only factors in Russian nationals in its limit on numbers.
The United States has around 120 people at its Russian missions, far down from 1,200 in 2017, while Russia has some 230 people in the United States, excluding those posted in New York for its UN mission.
"They have a much bigger presence here in the United States than we have in Russia," the official said.
The United States and Russia have tense relations on multiple fronts including US allegations of hacking and election interference by Moscow, although Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed at a June summit in Geneva to work toward more stable ties.
How Russia Botched Its COVID Response in Every Possible Way .
After a devastating few months, the latest COVID surge is easing across much of the world. But while most countries are getting better, Russia is actually getting worse. And for one main reason. “A significant percentage of Russians fear the vaccine more than the virus,” Anna Gotlib, a Russian-born philosopher and bioethicist at Brooklyn College, told The Daily Beast. And the Russian government, rather than battling vaccine skepticism, has actually encouraged it. All in the hope of scoring a quick buck and owning the West.Globally, authorities counted around 3 million new coronavirus infections last week—down from 4.6 million at the peak of the surge in early September.