Rus­sia or­ders US to cut diplo­mats in re­sponse to sanc­tions

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Moscow, Rus­sia - Moscow on Fri­day or­dered the US to slash its num­ber of diplo­mats in Rus­sia and froze two Em­bassy com­pounds in a pre-emp­tive strike against tough new sanc­tions be­ing read­ied in Wash­ing­ton.

On Thurs­day, the US Se­nate passed new bi­par­ti­san sanc­tions on Rus­sia, Iran and North Korea, send­ing the pack­age to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said Trump will sign the bill into law, end­ing spec­u­la­tion over whether he would veto the mea­sure.

But the Pres­i­dent only did so af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing ‘crit­i­cal el­e­ments’ of the bill, the spokeswoman added, with­out spec­i­fy­ing what those el­e­ments were. “He has now re­viewed the fi­nal ver­sion and, based on its re­spon­sive­ness to his ne­go­ti­a­tions, ap­proves the bill and in­tends to sign it.”

The move was a fur­ther blow to hopes in Moscow that Trump’s elec­tion might help im­prove ties that slumped to their low­est point since the Cold War over the Krem­lin’s med­dling in Ukraine and al­leged in­ter­fer­ence in the US elec­tion.

It has also up­set some Euro­pean na­tions fear­ful that it could hit their busi­nesses. Ger­many warned it would not ac­cept sanc­tions that tar­geted firms in­volved with Rus­sia’s en­ergy sec­tor.

The Krem­lin had pre­vi­ously said it would hold off from re­spond­ing un­til the sanc­tions be­came law. But it ap­peared to change tack af­ter Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in­sisted on Thurs­day that he could not ‘end­lessly tol­er­ate this kind of in­so­lence’.

A Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry state­ment de­manded the US cut its diplo­matic pres­ence in Rus­sia by Septem­ber to 455 - the same num­ber Moscow has in the US - in a move sources said could force out hun­dreds of diplo­mats.

It also said it was bar­ring the US Em­bassy from us­ing a Moscow sum­mer house and stor­age fa­cil­ity in the city from Au­gust 1. ‘The United States un­der the ab­so­lutely in­vented pre­text of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in their in­ter­nal af­fairs takes one grossly anti-Rus­sian ac­tion af­ter an­other,’ it said.

Moscow ‘re­serves the right to carry out other mea­sures that could af­fect the in­ter­ests of the US,’ the state­ment added.

In a phone call later with US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov in­sisted that the mea­sures from Moscow were a ‘nec­es­sary step’, his Min­istry said.

Lavrov said that Rus­sia was ‘still ready to nor­malise bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with the US and to co- op­er­ate on the most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional is­sues’.

‘How­ever, this is pos­si­ble only on the ba­sis of equal­ity, mu­tual re­spect and a bal­anc­ing of in­ter­ests,’ the Min­istry state­ment added.

Ear­lier, US Am­bas­sador John Tefft ‘ex­pressed his strong dis­ap­point­ment and protest’ at the de­vel­op­ment, a spokesper­son at the Em­bassy in Moscow said.

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