Today, a new visa regime has gone into effect for Americans seeking Russian visas. This has been a 2 year process of working out the details and new applications can apply for the new 3 year multiple re-entry extended visa. The consular fee is $180 for 7-15 day processing.
A quote from the Washington DC Russian Embassy Visa Section:
"In accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and nationals of the United States of America effective September 9, 2012 the US citizens shall as a rule be issued multiple-entry business, private, humanitarian and tourist visas for a stay of no more than 6 months starting from the date of each entry that are valid for three years (36 months) from the date of issue of the visa."
This is particularly good news for people who would want to visit on the spur or the moment or those with needs for longer stays and will likely increase tourism and business ties.