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20 Jan, 2021 00:07

Russian consulate in New York says dozens of its phone lines CUT OFF as Americans cite ‘tech difficulties’

Russian consulate in New York says dozens of its phone lines CUT OFF as Americans cite ‘tech difficulties’

The Russian consulate-general in New York City has been forced to operate without telephone connection for two days now, as dozens of landlines in its office were cut off simultaneously, the diplomats have revealed.

Telephones at the consulate haven’t been ringing since Monday, the Russian mission said in social media posts on Tuesday. It advised those in need of its services to use emails – but even then there might be trouble getting one’s message through, as there are also issues with the internet in the building.

“We’re talking about not one, not two or three, but several dozen telephone lines, which were effectively cut off at the same time,” Consul Alexey Topolsky told Rossiya 1 channel.

The situation is causing a lot of inconvenience to the members of Russian expat community in New York as they are unable to reach the consulate and arrange their meetings, Topolsky said.

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The US side has claimed that telephone connection was off due to “some technical problems,” Topolsky said, expressing hope that things will go back to how they should be “soon.”

While the cause of the “problems” was not immediately clear, suspicions have arose that the situation may somehow be linked to the US-Russian diplomatic row.

The outgoing Trump administration has previously targeted the Russian diplomatic staff and property on several occasions, in a feud that ironically stemmed from the Russiagate-fueled conspiracies on the 2016 election meddling – the allegations meant to derail Donald Trump’s presidency.

In late 2016, the outgoing Barack Obama administration kicked out 35 Russian diplomats from the US, which then triggered a similar response from Russia and a chain reaction of tit-for-tats.

In August 2017, the US State Department ordered the closure of Russia’s consulate-general in San Francisco and the Trade Representative in Washington. Despite remaining the property of Moscow, the building in San Francisco was searched by the US secret services a week later, and the Russian flags were taken down.

The Kremlin strongly protested the “illegal” US actions. In March 2018, Russia’s consulate in Seattle was also shut down and 60 diplomats expelled in what the White House called “the largest expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in United States history.” The pretext for it were accusations that Russia 'poisoned' former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.

2020 didn’t see any improvements in the US-Russian relations either, with Washington notably deciding to shut down US consulates in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok and in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, causing further inconvenience to Russians and Americans alike.

Following mutual expulsions and mounting red tape, the “understaffed and overstretched” US Embassy in Moscow bemoaned the difficulties it’s been facing in a Washington Post article in December – only to be reminded by the Russian diplomats that it was the US that started the ongoing “visa war.”

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