People walk past the US Capitol in WashingtonDC, on December 16, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] WASHINGTON - The United States planned to close its consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, and to suspend operations at one in Yekaterinburg, US State Department said on Friday. "The Secretary of State, in close consultation with Ambassador John Sullivan, has decided to close the US Consulate General in Vladivostok and to suspend operations at the US Consulate General in Yekaterinburg," according to a release by a State Department spokesperson. The release said the decision was taken "to optimize the work of the US mission in Russia," and no action related to the Russian consulates in the United States had been planned. US media reported on Friday that the state department had told Congress the intended moves in a notification dated Dec 10, saying it "intends to take these steps in response to ongoing staffing challenges for the US Mission in Russia in the wake of the 2017 Russian-imposed personnel cap on the US Mission and the resultant impasse with Russia over diplomatic visas." The congressional notification said that 10 US diplomats assigned to the consulates would be reassigned to the embassy in Moscow. The State Department had temporarily suspended operations in Vladivostok in the Far East. It also had reduced services in Yekaterinburg in the east of the Ural Mountains since March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The moves came amid heightened tension between Washington and Moscow over a range of issues such as cybersecurity, arms control, and other regional issues.