Moscow, London issue diplomatic visas for first time since March

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LONDON, December 28. /TASS/. Moscow and London have issued a number of visas for future employees of each other’s diplomatic missions, for the first time since the Salisbury incident in March, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom said on Friday following Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko’s statement on the forthcoming restoration of the number of Russian and British diplomats and a subsequent refutation by the UK Foreign Office.

“We saw the rebuttal by the British side. Here are the facts. In December Russia and the UK have, for the first time since March, issued a number of visas for future employees of the diplomatic missions of the two countries, on the basis of reciprocity. This means that the overall number of staff will be partially restored following the damage inflicted by the expulsion of 23 Russian and thereafter 23 British diplomats,” the embassy said.

“We consider the renewal of visa delivery as a step in the right direction. But, as the Ambassador made clear, it is definitely premature to speak of a full restoration of the missions’ capacity,” the embassy stressed. “Regrettably, the UK continues to project the existing political difficulties onto the conditions of work of the Russian Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Edinburgh. This, according to the principle of reciprocity, has a bearing on the British missions in Russia. Dialogue on these matters will continue.”

Ambassador Yakovenko said on Friday that London and Moscow had reached an agreement that the diplomatic staff of both countries’ missions “would be restored sometime in January.” “I am not sure that will be done in relation to all staff, but at least half of the embassy will be restored,” he told Rossiya-24 TV channel.

In response to this statement, a spokesperson for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said no agreements had been reached with Russia on that matter. “We have had a continuous dialogue with Russia about diplomatic visas since before the events in Salisbury. We regularly exchange visas for diplomatic staff and will not comment on individual cases. No new arrangements have been agreed,” the spokesperson said.

“There has been no change in our position on the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK, including the measures taken after Salisbury. The staffing of our respective missions takes place within those constraints,” he added.

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