More than 180 local employees working at US embassy, consulates in Russia laid off

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday that the U.S. had been forced to let go of local employees and contractors at its embassy in Moscow and two consulates following a directive by the Russian government. 

“Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force,” Blinken said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened that this action will force us to let go of 182 local employees and dozens of contractors at our diplomatic facilities in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.”

Blinken expressed concerns that the layoffs would impact diplomacy efforts between the U.S. and Russia as well as the safety of personnel.

“Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia,” Blinken said.

Earlier this year, Russia said that non-Americans would not be able to work at any of the U.S.’s three diplomatic missions, a move the country implemented in response to America’s decision to discharge some Russian diplomats, according to The Associated Press.

The wire service noted that the decisions between the two were effected by the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, Russia’s alleged involvement in the hacking of IT group SolarWinds and American sanctions against Russia regarding meddling in the last U.S. presidential election. 

The Kremlin has denied their involvement in all of these events. 

The remarks are the latest example of the ongoing tensions and fragile relationship between the two countries. 

Though President Biden and Russian President Vladmir Putin met last month for a bilateral summit and expressed relatively positive sentiments at the end of their meeting, recent events have since complicated the situation.

Earlier this month, a Russian cyber criminal group REvil launched a ransomware attack against the software company Kaseya, with up to 1,500 companies potentially impacted. 

And this week, Biden said he had received a briefing from officials who told him of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the upcoming 2022 midterms.

“Look what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation,” Biden said Tuesday during a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty.”

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken cybsecurity Joe Biden Joe Biden Kaseya Vladmir Putin

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