ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — U.S. consulate staff in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest metropolis, had been getting ready on Friday to wind up operations after the Russian authorities ordered the consulate’s closure.
Russia on Thursday introduced the expulsion of greater than 150 diplomats, together with 60 Americans, in response to mass expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western international locations over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “Russia did not begin any diplomatic wars” and had to reply. Peskov mentioned Russia was open to enhancing ties with all international locations together with the U.S.
Russia additionally ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg in response to the U.S. announcement to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle.
An Associated Press reporter on Friday noticed consulate staff carrying bins from the constructing and loading them right into a van. Several mini-vans drove out of the consulate whereas safety additionally detained a person who threw a Starbucks cup on the constructing.
Some of the passers-by close to the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg cheered the expulsions.
“Let them get out of right here,” mentioned 61-year-old pensioner Viktor Fedin. “You will not put Russia on its knees.”
Others had been extra cautious, anxious that the closures would have an effect on visa processing for Russians.
“The Russian authorities has to reply to the hostile actions in opposition to Russia,” mentioned 32-year-old researcher Yelena Bogomazova.
“But the escalation is dangerous. The closure of the consulate will make it tough for individuals to get U.S. visas, they’ll have to go to Moscow.”
After Russia expelled a number of dozens of U.S. diplomats, the ready listing for U.S. visa functions in Russia has elevated to weeks if not months. The U.S. embassy mentioned it was unable to course of visa functions quicker due to the staff scarcity.