U.S. visa consultations could soon resume in three Russian cities, the Tass news agency quoted U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman as saying on Monday.
Huntsman said that the visa interviews "in the near future... may be resumed" at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg in the Urals and Vladivostok in Russia's far east.
"We are trying to do everything possible, and I hope that in coming weeks we will be able to effectively issue visas," Huntsman said, according to Tass. He also said he was attempting to restore confidence in U.S.-Russia relations even as Washington continues its sanctions against Russian individuals and companies because of Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and support for pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.
All the consulates in Russia, along with the embassy in Moscow, resumed processing of nonimmigrant visas that did not require interviews on September 1. That group included children up to age 13, people 80 and older and those whose visas had expired within the last year.
But the lack of consulate staffing after Russia ordered a sharp cutback in the size of the staffs at U.S. outposts has curtailed the processing of visas that require interviews.
In August, the U.S. scaled back its visa services in Russia after Moscow ordered the U.S. to cut 755 of its 1,200 workers, many of them Russians, from its embassy and consulate staffs. The Moscow action came after then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian outposts in the U.S. in response to Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.