Russia out of wrestling world cup due to visa issues

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Russia will not compete at next weekend’s men’s freestyle wrestling world cup in Iowa City after the U.S. embassy in Moscow was unable to expedite visa interviews, USA Wrestling said Friday.

Earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of trying to bar Russian wrestlers and claimed the U.S. was unfit to host international sports events.

The Russian Wrestling Federation made a late visa request that could not be filled, according to the embassy via USA Wrestling.

“Due to the staffing reduction forced on the U.S. Mission in Russia by the Russian Federation, there is very limited appointment availability for visa interviews at this time,” the consular section of the embassy said in response to Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley, according to USA Wrestling. “In the current situation, the embassy is not able to provide expedited appointments for sporting events.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an earlier statement that the alleged visa refusal was “direct and open discrimination,” adding that “it’s clearly impossible to hold international competitions on American territory any more — they don’t play fair.”

Turkey previously backed out of the meet, as did its replacement, Iran. Russia, Iran and Turkey combined to win four of the six Olympic men’s freestyle titles in Rio. Iran won the men’s freestyle world cup the last six years. Russia was runner-up three of the last five years.

India and Mongolia are the new replacements for the annual eight-team event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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