U.S. Embassy To Reopen Its Gates to Russian Workers
MOSCOW (AP) _ The U.S. Embassy plans to hire Russians to work inside its compound for the first time since 1986, when they were withdrawn in a final flurry of Cold War reprisals.
The first wave of hiring in April will involve about a dozen employees who will take such jobs as maintenance, painting and grounds keeping, spokesman John Ohta said today.
They will be in addition to the 30 or so drivers the embassy has employed for about a year, Ohta said, noting that the drivers remained off embassy grounds.
″It will be gradually expanded, but we’re going to start with 12 to 15 to see how it works,″ he said.
He said it hadn’t been decided whether the workers would be hired through the Russian government or through private channels.
In another sign of warming relations between the United States and Russia, the State Department announced Tuesday that American diplomats would no longer be bound by long-standing restrictions on contacts with Russians.
The restrictions were put in place to guard Americans against attempted recruitment by the KGB - the Soviet intelligence service. In several cases, U.S. Marine guards at embassies in eastern Europe became involved with local women and unwittingly gave away secrets.
The main restriction remaining is on romantic involvement between American diplomats and local residents, ″and that is something that is also being reviewed,″ State Department spokesman Margaret Tutwiler said.
U.S. diplomats often complained that the restrictions impaired their ability to gauge developments in Russia. The rules barred meetings with Russians off the embassy grounds unless a diplomat was accompanied by another American.
The return of Russian menial workers also will make life easier on the Americans, who were forced to take on some of the chores once performed by their local staff.
The Soviet government removed the Russian workers in 1986 in retaliation for the United States pressing the United Nations to expel Soviet employees suspected of espionage.
The new rules on fraternization and the hiring of local employees also will apply to the new U.S. embassies opened recently in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.