Moscow orders diplomatic staff cut, property seizures as row escalates
MOSCOW — Russia told the United States on Friday that some of its diplomats must leave the country in just over a month and said it was seizing some US diplomatic property as retaliation for proposed new US sanctions it described as illegal.
The response, announced by Russian Foreign Ministry, came a day after the US Senate voted to slap new sanctions on Russia, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and anger his own Republican Party.
President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia had so far exercised restraint, but would have to retaliate against what he described as boorish and unreasonable US behavior.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday that China has always proposed that countries should resolve disputes through negotiations. “We disapprove of easily taking unilateral sanctions,” he told reporters at a daily news conference in Beijing.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated even further after US intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to meddle in last year’s US presidential election, something Moscow flatly denies.
The US Senate bill will also grant the US Congress the power to block Trump from unilaterally lifting sanctions on Russia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the US had until Sept 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the same number of Russian diplomats it said were left in the US after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.
It said in a statement that the decision by US Congress confirmed “the extreme aggression of the United
Under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their domestic affairs the US is aggressively pushing forward ...” Russian Foreign Ministry
States in international affairs”.
“Under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their domestic affairs, the US is aggressively pushing forward, one after another, crude anti-Russian actions. This all runs counter to the principles of international law,” the ministry said.
It was not immediately clear how many US diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave the country.
An official at the US embassy in Moscow said there were about 1,100 US diplomatic staff in Russia. That included both Russian and US citizens. Most staff, including around 300 US citizens, work in the embassy in Moscow, with others based in outlying consulates.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was also seizing a Moscow dacha (holiday home) compound used by US diplomats from Aug 1 as well as a US diplomatic warehouse.
The outgoing Obama administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds — one in New York and another in Maryland — at the same time as it expelled the Russian diplomats in December.