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Kremlin: US breaking law for denying Russians visas for UN meet

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)
September 24, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Kremlin has accused the United States of violating its international obligations by denying visas to a Russian delegation due to attend the UN General Assembly, and threatened “tough” action in response.

“It’s a worrisome situation, and such actions are not acceptable,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said September 24.

“This is a direct violation of Washington’s international obligations, this is not a bilateral visit.”

Such actions called for a “tough reaction” from Moscow, Peskov said.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook earlier that “a number of members of the official Russian delegation” had not received their U.S. visas.

Washington has said Russian officials failed to provide the necessary documentation needed for issuing visas in a timely manner.

Zakharova said U.S. claims “were not true” as all documents needed were “submitted under a deadline provided by U.S. diplomats.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the deputy head of the U.S. mission in Moscow and handed him a protest note, Russian media reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow did not immediately comment.

Earlier this year, Russia denied visas to teachers of the Anglo-American school in Moscow.

‘Outrageous Act’

A senior Russian lawmaker earlier on September 24 called the situation “outrageous.”

“The United States breached its obligations to the international community and did not issue in due time visas to a number of members of the official delegation, including myself, and the group of accompanying officials who were due to depart for New York today to attend the 74th session of the UN General Assembly,” Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, said.

“This is an outrageous act, for which there is no explanation or justification,” he added.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been severely strained over a variety of issues, including Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, its alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election, and its involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Under a 1947 agreement to locate the UN headquarters in New York, visas for foreign diplomats invited to the UN are required to “be granted without charge and as promptly as possible.”

However, United States law says that nothing within the headquarters agreement can weaken the country’s ability to “safeguard its own security and to completely control the entrance of aliens into any territory of the United States other than the headquarters district and its immediate vicinity.”

In 1998, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat was denied a visa to attend the General Assembly, which was eventually moved to Geneva because of the issue.

The issue of visas came up several days ago when Iranian officials complained of delays in their paperwork to travel to New York.

Though Iranian President Hassan Rohani eventually received a visa, Tehran is upset that several of his aides did not.

Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news website reported on September 22 that Rohani’s visa is also restricted, allowing him only to travel between his place of lodging in Manhattan, the UN headquarters, and the Iranian mission.