The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement accusing the United States of barring its wrestlers from obtaining visas for the freestyle wrestling world cup event in Iowa.
The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the United States has barred Russian wrestlers from competing in the upcoming Freestyle World Cup in Iowa City.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Ministry, released a statement accusing the U.S. embassy in Moscow of refusing to arrange visa interviews for the Russian wrestling team ahead of the World Cup. She added that the embassy is claiming that a shortage of staff and “consular personnel” is to blame for their inability to process visas on time.
”We regard the US actions as another obvious example of obstructing the participation of Russian athletes in international competitions,” Zakharova said in an official statement. “The American authorities also clearly are not averse to eliminating strong competitors for their athletes.”
The shortage of embassy staff to process paperwork is likely due to the Russian government’s decision to cut the U.S. diplomatic staff by two-thirds in response to a a similar decision taken by Washington last year. This tense diplomatic situation is unlikely to improve, as the U.S. announced the expulsion of 60 Russian officials and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
Despite the political concerns surrounding the two nations, the Russian Foreign Ministry believes the U.S. unwillingness to provide visas makes it unfit to host international sports events.
“The point, however, is that non-issuance of visas for our athletes is a gross violation by the United States of its obligations as a state that undertook to host international competitions,” added Zakharova. “It is about direct and open discourses the nation of the team of one of the participating countries.”
The 2017 Freestyle World Cup was hosted in Tehran, Iran and featured its own sports diplomacy concerns. After President Donald Trump issued an executive order in early 2017 restricting travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, Iran responded by banning US wrestlers from participating in the 2017 freestyle World Cup. It was only after a federal judge in Washington state temporarily blocked the travel ban, that the Iranian government reversed their decision to deny entry visas to U.S. wrestlers.
It remains unclear whether the Russian freestyle wrestling team will be able to compete in the 2018 World Cup, which takes place between April 5-9.