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US Says Cuts to Staff in Russia 'Uncalled For'

US Says Cuts to Staff in Russia 'Uncalled For'

Sunday, 30 July 2017 07:37 PM

The U.S. State Department is calling Russia's decision to cut hundreds from its diplomatic staff in Russia "a regrettable and uncalled for act."

On Friday, Russian's Foreign Ministry ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia. The order came as a response to new sanctions approved by the U.S. Congress and sent to U.S. President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

Putin said more than 1,000 people are currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three U.S. consulates in Russia. They include both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.

Putin had said the United States will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 under new sanctions from Moscow.

Russian's Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia. It said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455 in response to the U.S. Congress' approval of a new package of sanctions.

It was not clear then how many reassignments that would mean from the Moscow embassy and the three U.S. consulates in Russia.

Putin said in an interview televised on state television on Sunday that he ordered the move because he "thought it was the time to show that we're not going to leave that without an answer."

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 The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters was used in this report.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
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The Latest on Russian President Vladimir Putin's call for the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff: (all times local):2 a.m.The U.S. State Department is calling Russia's decision to cut hundreds from its diplomatic staff in Russia "a regrettable and uncalled for act."On Friday,...
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Sunday, 30 July 2017 07:37 PM
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