The United States is sharply scaling back its visa services in Russia after Russia cut the number of its diplomatic staff in retaliation over new US sanctions.

The US embassy in Russia said in a statement it was suspending all non-immigrant visa operations across Russia on 23 August and that they would resume on 1 September "on a greatly reduced scale".

The move means Russian citizens wanting to visit the United States for tourism will have to travel to Moscow and will no longer be able to use local US consulates outside the Russian capital.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the US Congress, has ordered the US to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by 755 people by 1 September.

"Capacity for interviews in the future will be greatly reduced because we have had to greatly reduce our staffing levels to comply with the Russian government's requirement," the embassy told applicants in a note on its website.

The move will pose a serious logistical challenge for some Russians whose country, the world's largest by territory, stretches across 11 time zones.

The United States has consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

"Visa operations at the US consulates will remain suspended indefinitely," the embassy said.

Russia's decision to reduce the US diplomatic presence had called into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations with the US, the embassy added.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said earlier this month that the United States had issued around 150,000 visas to Russian citizens last year.

The US embassy signalled its new scaled back visa regime could be in place for some time.

"We will operate at reduced capacity for as long as our staffing levels are reduced," it said.