Just days after news broke of a huge monthslong hack against American government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, a breach suspected to have been carried out by Russia, the United States is shuttering its last two consulates there. The US Consulate in Vladivostok will see its doors closed for good, while the consulate in Yekaterinburg is temporarily suspending work. The official reasoning for the shutdowns is due to "to ongoing staffing challenges of the US mission in Russia in the wake of the 2017 Russian-imposed personnel cap on the US Mission and resultant impasse with Russia over diplomatic visas," per a Dec. 10 letter sent by the State Department to Congress and seen by the Hill. This decision leaves the US Embassy in Moscow as the only US diplomatic outpost in Russia.
That means Americans traveling to Russia, and Russians seeking visas to the US, will all now have to go through that location. A State Department rep confirmed the decision to CNN, noting the move, made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is "part of our ongoing efforts to ensure the safe and secure operation of the US diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation." The spokesperson added that "no action related to the Russian consulates in the United States is planned." The AP notes that Russia shut down the US Consulate in St. Petersburg in 2018, not long after the US ordered the Russian Consulate in Seattle closed over the poisoning in the UK of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal. The last day of operation for the Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg consulates isn't clear. After that happens, the 10 or so diplomats will shift to the embassy in Moscow. (Read more Russia stories.)