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755 US Diplomats Must Leave Russia: Putin

Image: 755 US Diplomats Must Leave Russia: Putin

By    |   Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 02:02 PM

Russia has told the U.S. it must cut staff at its embassy and other facilities in Russia by 755 people by Sept. 1 in retaliation for a new sanctions law passed by the U.S. Congress last week, President Vladimir Putin said.

“We waited for a rather long time, thinking that things might improve, nourished the hope that the situation would change somehow,” Putin said in an interview with state television broadcast Sunday, his first comments on the issue since Russia announced the move on Friday. “But by all indications, if it does change, it won’t be soon.”

Putin said Russia would refrain from taking further measures for the moment. “If the time comes, we can consider other options for responding. But I hope it doesn’t come to that. As of today, I’m against it.”

The cuts represent more than half of the diplomatic and technical personnel at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and consulates elsewhere in the country. Some involved are Russian nationals and won’t be expelled, while diplomats will likely be forced to leave. The Russian move would lower the total staff to 455 -- the same number of diplomatic personnel Russia has in the U.S.

Russia’s move came soon after the U.S. Senate on July 27 overwhelming passed a plan, already approved by the House, that would prevent President Donald Trump from easing sanctions without getting congressional approval, as well as open the way to even wider restrictions than the ones currently imposed over the Ukraine crisis. Trump hasn’t signed the legislation, but the White House said he plans to.

"More than a thousand people were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television.

"755 people must stop their activities in Russia."

Putin added that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon."

"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better," he said.

"But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon."

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The law now goes to President Donald Trump who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign.

Moscow on Friday ordered the US to slash its number of diplomats in Russia to 455 and froze two embassy compounds -- a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city -- from August 1.

In December, the then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.

Information from AFP and Reuters was used in this report.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that 755 US diplomats must leave his country, after Moscow announced it would expel American staff in retaliation for tough new sanctions from Washington.The Russian foreign ministry had earlier demanded the US cut its diplomatic...
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2017-02-30
Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 02:02 PM
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