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Newsline: Russian State Media Invented ‘Huge’ Lines Outside the US Embassy

One day before the U.S diplomatic mission to Russia is due to stop processing non-immigrant visas, Russian state media reported long queues outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow — even as the situation on the ground told a different story. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Tuesday reported that “a long line of people who came for interviews or to pick up their visas” had formed in front of the U.S. Embassy on Novinsky Bulvar. Other Russian media, including the Metro and Life.ru outlets, also claimed long queues had formed in front of the American diplomatic mission, with the state-run Vesti.ru describing the crowd size as “gigantic.” The RIA article was shared on social media with a picture of crowds standing outside the embassy, but the picture was quickly outed on social media as being taken at a vigil in July in honor of Linkin Park singer, Chester Bennington. RIA later deleted the tweet. A RBC journalist said there were about seven people waiting outside the consular section and around 10 journalists early on Tuesday morning. A Moscow Times reporter at Novinsky Bulvar on Tuesday morning between 11:15 a.m. 12:45 p.m. said the area around the embassy was quiet except for other journalists and television crews, with roughly ten people coming out of the consular section during an hour-long period. The U.S. Embassy in Russia on Monday announced it planned to temporarily suspend processing all non-immigrant visa applications for Russian citizens beginning Aug 23. The announcement said operations in Moscow would resume in September, with consular services for Russians in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg remaining “suspended indefinitely.”


Newsline: Netherlands embassy no longer issues visas to Nigerians

The embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria reminded Nigerians that it is no longer in charge of issuing visas to them. Michel Deleen, the embassy’s charge d’ affaires, told NAN in Lagos that the embassy swapped its visa issuance processes in Nigeria with the French Consulate General in Lagos and the embassy of Belgium in Abuja. “Let me remind Nigerians that under these agreements, any Nigerian that wants to visit the Netherlands for business, study or tourism should always process their visa applications through the French consulate-general in Lagos and the embassy of Belgium in Abuja.”


Newsline: US Embassy in Russia stops issuing tourist visas for 8 days

In a step that could affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said it would suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas for eight days from Wednesday in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff. The embassy made the decision after the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered a cap on the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, it said in a statement, adding that it would resume issuing visas in Moscow on Sept. 1, but maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok indefinitely. Nearly a quarter of a million Russian tourists visited the U.S. last year, according to Russian tourism officials. Earlier this month, Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or two-thirds. Moscow’s move was a long-expected response to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the United States following allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. vote. The vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates, are believed to be Russian nationals. The U.S. embassy said Monday that Russia’s decision to cut its staff “calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations.” However, it insisted that it would be able to maintain adequate staffing “to carry out essential elements of our mission.”The U.S. State Department said the decision to suspend visas was not retaliation for Russia’s capping of U.S. diplomatic personnel, noting that having fewer personnel inevitably results in a reduction in the services they can provide.


Newsline: Serbia withdraws embassy staff from Macedonia

The Serbian government has pulled its entire embassy staff from Macedonia amid claims over “offensive intelligence activities” against Belgrade, in a move that is likely to strain relations between the two Balkan neighbours. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that the withdrawal from the Macedonian capital, Skopje, was made after intelligence reports of “very offensive acts” planned against Serbian interests in Macedonia. He did not elaborate on the specific acts, adding that “everything will be much clearer” in the next 10 days. The recall was first announced by Macedonia’s ministry of foreign affairs, which said it was “not aware of the reasons for the decision”.


Newsline: Putin Names Longtime Diplomat Antonov As Ambassador To U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov, a veteran diplomat who has served in both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, as ambassador to the United States. The appointment was announced on the Kremlin website on August 21. Antonov, 62, has been a staunch public advocate of Russia’s assertive foreign policy in recent years and is seen as a tough negotiator on issues including arms control. A longtime Foreign Ministry official, he had been a deputy foreign minister since December 2016, having moved back after nearly six years as a deputy defense minister. Antonov replaces Sergei Kislyak, who had been Russia’s ambassador to Washington since 2008. The Kremlin announcement of Antonov’s appointment, which had been widely reported to be imminent in recent weeks, came shortly after the U.S. Embassy said that nonimmigrant visa processing would be suspended at the embassy and consulates in Russia as of August 23 — the latest development in a series of disputes that have severely strained U.S.-Russian ties since Putin returned to the presidency for a third term in 2012.


Newsline: Top Vatican Diplomat Set To Meet With Putin In Moscow

The Vatican’s secretary of state is set to arrive in Moscow on August 21 for an official visit slated to include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cardinal Pietro Parolin said earlier this month that he hopes his four-day trip could help lay the groundwork for an eventual visit by Pope Francis to Russia, which no head of the Catholic Church has visited in the modern era. “The preparation of a possible visit to Russia by [Pope] Francis is not part of the aims of my visit,” Parolin told Italy’s Corriere della Sera in an interview published August 10. “With God’s help, however, I hope it can make some contribution in this direction,” he added. Francis has sought to bridge enduring tensions between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity, including with a landmark February 2016 meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Parolin told Russia’s state-run TASS news agency in an interview published August 20 that he will meet Kirill again in Moscow. He is set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 22 and Putin the following day, TASS quoted Parolin as saying.


Newsline: New York City increases security at Spanish consulate after Barcelona attack

The NYPD’s counter-terrorism unit is increasing security at locations in the city that are affiliated with Spain after a terror attack in Barcelona left at least 12 people dead and wounded at least 80. Spanish officials said a van plowed into pedestrians in the city Thursday in the historic district of Las Ramblas. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the van attack around 3:40 p.m. NYC time. NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said the unit has placed officers at the Spanish consulate and other locations affiliated with Spain.