Moscow or­ders diplo­matic staff cut, prop­erty seizures as row es­ca­lates

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

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.

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