Russian Federation orders U.S. to cut embassy staff in retaliation for sanctions

US expresses 'strong disappointment and protest' over Russia retaliation
Russia retaliates over US sanctions
Author

31 July, 2017

The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said the passage of the bill confirmed "the extreme aggression of the United States in global affairs".

The Foreign Ministry said that the U.S. had until September 1 to bring the total number of diplomatic and technical personnel in Russian Federation to 455, the same number as it said Russian Federation has in the U.S. The ministry also ousted the U.S. from a recreation retreat and warehouse in Moscow.

Russian state television channel Rossiya 24 said over 700 staff would be affected but that was not confirmed by the foreign ministry or the U.S. embassy.

Trump has denied any collusion between his associates and Moscow and termed the Russian investigation "a witch hunt".

An official at the USA embassy in Moscow, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, said there were around 1,100 US diplomatic staff in Russian Federation.

The Senate voted 98 to 2 for the measure, which also imposes tough new sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

"This means that the total number of personnel involved in the American diplomatic and consular institutions in the Russian Federation is reduced to 455".

An attempt by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to portray Russian sanctions legislation as a sign Americans want Russia to improve relations with the USA has been derided by Moscow.

Relations between Russian Federation and the United States dropped to a post-Cold War low following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting since 2014 has left 10,000 people dead. The ministry is also suspending the U.S. Embassy's use of two sites - a storage facility and a dacha on an island in the Moscow River.

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Lavrov added, however, that Moscow was ready to "normalize the bilateral ties with the USA and cooperate on important global issues".

The bill targets Russia's aggression in Ukraine and Syria, citing corruption, human rights abuses and weapons sales.

US President Donald Trump will now have to decide whether to accept or veto the measures.

The bill underwent revisions to address concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia's energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow's benefit.

Senator John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russian Federation, said before the vote on yesterday's bill: "The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy".

If confirmed that Russia's move would affect hundreds of staff at the U.S. embassy, it would far outweigh the Obama administration's expulsion of 35 Russians in December.

It was not immediately clear how many USA diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave the country.

The US also expelled 35 Russian diplomats and denied Russian diplomatic staff access to the NY and Maryland compounds.


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