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U.S. State Department Closing Two Consulates In Russia

The U.S. State Department is shutting down its consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, and suspending operations at one in Yekaterinburg, officials confirmed on Friday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consulted with Ambassador John Sullivan before deciding to implement the changes which the department says will "optimize the work of the U.S. mission in Russia," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The move is part of U.S. "ongoing efforts to ensure the safe and secure operation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation," the official wrote.

They added: "The resulting realignment of personnel at U.S. Embassy Moscow will allow us to advance our foreign policy interests in Russia in the most effective and safe manner possible."

The closures mean the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will be the only remaining U.S. diplomatic outpost in Russia.

The announcement follows the revelation this week of a massive cyberattack against numerous government departments and agencies as well as a number of private companies. The sophisticated computer breach lasted months — indeed seems to be ongoing — and is widely believed to have been carried out by Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR.

Russia has denied involvement.

The State Department temporarily suspended operations in Vladivostok and reduced services in Yekaterinburg in March in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Russian consulates in the United States are not affected by the decision.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.