Russia orders US to cut diplomats in response to sanctions
MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday announced counter measures in response to tough new sanctions proposed by the United States, ordering Washington to reduce its diplomatic staff.
Moscow ordered the US to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 diplomats and staff and also barred it from using a Moscow summer house and storage facility.
The ministry said that this was in response to the passing of a new bill on sanctions by the Senate late Thursday. US President Donald Trump will now have to decide whether to accept or veto the measures.
US Ambassador John Tefft “expressed his strong disappointment and protest” at the development, the US embassy spokesperson said, adding that “we have passed the notification back to Washington for review.”
The embassy spokesperson declined to comment on the current number of US diplomats and staff in Russia.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday slammed what he called “anti-Russian hysteria” in Washington and said that Russia could not “endlessly tolerate this kind of insolence.”
Moscow complained that the “new sanctions bill showed with all clarity that relations with Russia have fallen hostage to the domestic political struggle in the US.”
It warned that it “reserves the right to carry out other measures that could affect the interests of the US” while acting in a reciprocal fashion.
The move comes after Russia has repeatedly expressed anger at Washington barring its diplomats access to two compounds in the US in December last year, under Barack Obama, in response to suspected Russian meddling in the US election.
Obama at the same time expelled 35 Russian diplomats for spying.
President Vladimir Putin initially held off from retaliating, saying he would wait to see how Trump reacted after he came into the White House.
Trump and Putin discussed this diplomatic spat at their first meeting at the G20 in Hamburg this month.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had said after subsequent talks in Washington that the matter was “almost” resolved.
The Russian foreign ministry on Friday slammed what it called “extreme aggressiveness of the US in international affairs” and said Washington was using the “absolutely far-fetched pretext of Russia’s interference in its internal affairs” to carry out “flagrantly anti-Russian actions.”
The ministry said “We propose to the US side to bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff” working in Russia “in exact accordance” with the number of Russian diplomats and support staff in the United States by September 1.
It said that this would reduce the number of US diplomats and staff to 455.
The ministry also said it would bar access to a summer house and storage facilities in Moscow used by the US embassy from August 1.