Russian President Vladimir Putin has expelled 755 US diplomatic staff in response to the sanctions placed on them by the US, adding that Moscow could consider additional measures against Washington as a response to new U.S. sanctions approved by Congress.
Moscow ordered the United States on Friday to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties after the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia. The White House said on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump would sign the sanctions bill.
Putin said in an interview with Vesti TV released on Sunday that the United States would have to cut its diplomatic and technical staff by 755 people by Sept. 1.
“Because more than 1,000 workers – diplomats and support staff – were working and are still working in Russia, 755 must stop their activity in the Russian Federation,” he said.
The new U.S. sanctions were partly a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and to punish Russia further for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia’s response suggested it had set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the Republican president, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.
Moscow said on Friday that the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people,which is the same as the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December, 2016.
On Friday, an official at the U.S. Embassy, who did not wish to be identified, said the embassy employed about 1,100 diplomatic and support staff in Russia, including Russian and U.S. citizens.
A US State Department official called Russia’s action “a regrettable and uncalled-for act.” Adding:
“We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it.”