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A security officer walking in front of the the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 2018. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department will close its consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, and suspend operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg, leaving the embassy in Moscow as the only remaining U.S. diplomatic outpost in Russia, a State Department spokesperson told Axios.

Why it matters: The closures come amid a massive cyberattack on U.S. government departments and agencies — including the State Department — and private companies that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says was "clearly" carried out by Russia.

The big picture: A spokesperson for the department said the closures will "optimize the work of the U.S. mission in Russia" and "ensure the safe and secure operation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation."

  • The department informed Congress of the changes in a notification dated Dec. 10, according to AP, which obtained a copy of the notice.
  • The department told lawmakers that the changes were “in response to ongoing staffing challenges of the U.S. 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."

Go deeper

Biden appoints swath of acting agency leaders

Joe Biden in the White House on Jan. 20. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday appointed acting leaders to federal agencies to temporarily hold the posts until the Senate can confirm his nominees.

Why it matters: The impeachment trial for former President Trump will prevent the chamber from confirming Biden's nominees and may inhibit his efforts to heal the country and its economy.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 21, 2021 - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.