Russia raps U.S. over lack of U.N. visas for its diplomats, seeks arbitration

The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York

(Reuters) - Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of failing to issue visas to its delegates at the United Nations and restricting the movement of its diplomats, calling for arbitration over what it said were "violations" of U.N. law.

In an interview with the RIA news agency, Russian foreign ministry official Pyotr Ilyichev said the U.S. had failed to comply with the 1947 U.N. Headquarters Agreement, which prohibits most restrictions on diplomats' access to the U.N.

"The U.S. is raising increasing doubts about the validity of its right to retain its status as host state for the U.N Headquarters," Ilyichev said.

"This is about the unjustified non-issuance of visas to delegates to participate in U.N. events and restrictions on the movements of foreign diplomats," he said.

Ilyichev also accused Washington of illegally "raiding" diplomatic property, in violation of international law, without providing any details.

Russia has complained before that its diplomats have not received visas to attend U.N. events, including last September when it said only half the visas it had requested were approved.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the United States took its obligations as a U.N. host country seriously and that visa records were confidential under U.S. law.

"Our limited capacity for processing visas at our embassy in Moscow is a result of Russia's unwarranted actions against our embassy in Russia, including the forced termination of local and third country national staff which has severely limited our staffing and therefore our capacity to process visas," it said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, relations between the two countries have dropped to historic lows, with Moscow dismissing the idea of rapprochement in the foreseeable future.

While there have been occasional diplomatic successes, including prisoner swaps involving U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed and basketball star Brittney Griner, high-level contact has been scarce.

(Reporting by Caleb Davis,; Editing by Gareth Jones)