Russian-American flight connection could be severed as US reduces visa issuance – Moscow

Russian-American flight connection could be severed as US reduces visa issuance – Moscow
Direct flight connections between Russia and the US could come to a complete halt, due to Washington’s ongoing “visa blockade” policy against Russian citizens, the Foreign Ministry has said.

“We cannot rule out that the two countries could be left without [direct] air transportation. Aeroflot, which is the only company to operate regular flights between Russia and the US, might be forced to halt them, as its pilots are facing mounting difficulties with American visas,” the ministry said in a statement. An Aeroflot representative has since confirmed the ongoing troubles with obtaining the US visas for pilots to Russian media.

Last year, the US extended the visa waiting time to 85 days, and recently upped it to 250 days, making applying for a visa “effectively pointless.” A consular staff shortage, which Washington has cited as the reason for delays, is not the real reason behind the “blockade,” the ministry said.

“Washington has imposed the visa blockade consciously, as an another way to put pressure [on Moscow]. They are deliberately targeting Russian citizens due to Russia’s independent international politics, jeopardizing trips for business, cultural, scientific, and simply family and [visits of a] friendly nature, en masse,” the statement reads.

“The US authorities seem to be afraid that visiting Russians will open the eyes of common Americans on the absurdity of the anti-Russian propaganda which they purvey, and therefore purposefully disrupt contact between peoples."

While Washington cited the recent chain of mutual diplomat expulsions as a cause of the additional time to process a visa application, these developments actually do not explain the move, according to the ministry.

The latest hostile action on the part of the US took place in March, following the eruption of the Skripal scandal, when a number of western nations expelled Russian diplomats, showing “solidarity” with the UK. While most of them expelled just one or two, Washington ousted 60 Russian diplomats, including some with the UN mission. It also ordered closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Moscow condemned that move and responded with the expulsion of an equal number of diplomats from each of the nations concerned, as well as with the closure of the US consulate in St. Petersburg. None of the US consulate workers were affected, however, and they were transferred to the diplomatic compound in Moscow, the ministry noted.

“So, nothing affected the issuing of visas – if there was a desire to conduct it. But the US evidently does not have it,” the ministry stressed.

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