In a notification dated December 10, the US State Department told Congress it intends to close the consulate in Vladivostok and suspend operations at the consulate in Yekaterinburg.
According to the notice, a copy of which was obtained by CNN on Friday, the State Department said it “intends to take these steps in response to ongoing staffing challenges for the U.S. Mission in Russia in the wake of the 2017 Russian-imposed personnel cap on the U.S. Mission and the resultant impasse with Russia over diplomatic visas.”
A State Department spokesperson confirmed the intended moves, saying that “the Secretary of State, in close consultation with Ambassador John Sullivan, has decided to close the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok and to suspend operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure the safe and secure operation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation.”
“The Department’s decision on the U.S. consulates in Russia was taken to optimize the work of the U.S. mission in Russia,” the spokesperson said Friday. “The resulting realignment of personnel at U.S. Embassy Moscow will allow us to advance our foreign policy interests in Russia in the most effective and safe manner possible.”
“No action related to the Russian consulates in the United States is planned,” they added.
The congressional notification said that 10 US diplomats assigned to the consulates will be reassigned to the embassy in Moscow and the 33 locally employed staff will be laid off. The notice said that once the congressional notification procedure was completed, the consulates, “with support from Embassy Moscow, plan to begin procedures to remove all sensitive material from the consulate, including computer equipment and controlled consular material.”
The State Department told lawmakers that “the planned closure would not adversely affect the Mission’s ability to advance core U.S. national interests, assist U.S. citizens, or to conduct adequate oversight of programs because all of those functions would continue to be performed by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.”
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.