Moscow may ban green card lottery after US fails to grant visas to Russia’s UN delegation, MP says

Moscow is weighing up its options on how to respond to a failure by the US to issue visas for 10 members of the Russian delegation to a UN summit in New York; one response could be to obstruct the green card lottery for Russians.

Russia believes it is the latest victim of Washington’s dubious practice of abusing its status as the host of the United Nations headquarters by denying entrance to people that the US government doesn’t want to see there. In theory, all members of the UN get equal access to the organization’s events, but in practice nations which find themselves on Washington’s bad side are effectively restricted when the US fails to issue visas to delegates.

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Ten members of the Russian delegation to the ongoing UN General Assembly found themselves in this situation, including seven employees of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian senate.

Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the ministry, called it an “outrageous example of US disrespect to UN members.” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed a mixture of irritation and amusement at a trilateral meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts.

“I am glad that I eventually got a visa from the United States, unlike my delegation. Graciously enough from Washington, I managed to get here,” he joked. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif replied that at least now he is not the only one who has to worry about getting a US visa when travelling to the UN.

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Aleksey Chepa, who is a member of a foreign affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, said the Diversity Immigrant Visa program may be targeted in response. The US program, colloquially known as the green card lottery, issues 50,000 permanent residency permits to people in nations which the US government considers underrepresented on its soil, and Russia is one of them.

“I think we could ban activities like the green card lottery, which serve to support the US image of a ‘champion of democracy’,” the lawmaker told Izvestia newspaper. “Our response will draw everyone’s attention.”

Moscow, of course, cannot prevent Washington from giving residency to whomever it sees fit, but it can make it harder for Russians to apply by blacklisting the website of the lottery or shutting down intermediaries who help people with the paperwork, the newspaper said.

Russians have been eligible to participate in the Diversity Immigrant Visa program since it started in 1995, with the exception of the years between 2005 and 2009, and have been among the heaviest users of the scheme.


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