Putin moves against sanc­tions

Tells US to limit staff in Rus­sia

Daily News - - WORLD -

RUS­SIAN Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said yes­ter­day the US would have to cut its em­bassy and con­sulate staff in Rus­sia by 755, height­en­ing ten­sions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Mos­cow three days af­ter the US Congress ap­proved sanc­tions against Rus­sia.

In re­sponse, the US State Depart­ment deemed it “a re­gret­table and un­called for act”.

Rus­sian’s For­eign Min­istry on Fri­day or­dered a re­duc­tion by Septem­ber 1 in the num­ber of US diplo­matic per­son­nel in Rus­sia.

It said it was or­der­ing the US Em­bassy to limit the num­ber of em­bassy and con­sular em­ploy­ees in the coun­try to 455 in re­sponse to the new pack­age of Amer­i­can sanc­tions. The White House has said US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would sign those sanc­tions into law.

The leg­is­la­tion, which also tar­gets Iran and North Korea, seeks to pun­ish Mos­cow for med­dling in last year’s US elec­tion and for its mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion in Ukraine and Syria.

“We had hoped that the sit­u­a­tion will some­how change, but ap­par­ently if it changes, it won’t be soon,” Putin said, ex­plain­ing why Mos­cow de­cided to re­tal­i­ate. “I thought it was the time to show that we’re not go­ing to leave it with­out an an­swer.”

Rus­sia is open to co-op­er­at­ing with the US on var­i­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism and cy­ber­crime, but in­stead it “only hears un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions of med­dling in US do­mes­tic af­fairs”, he said.

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

The Rus­sian leader did not ex­plain how the fig­ure of 755 po­si­tions was cal­cu­lated.

The State Depart­ment said: “This is a re­gret­table and un- called for act. We are as­sess­ing the im­pact of such a lim­i­ta­tion and how we will re­spond to it.”

The State Depart­ment de­clined to give an ex­act num­ber of Amer­i­can diplo­mats or other US of­fi­cials in Rus­sia, but the fig­ure is be­lieved to be about 400, some of whom have fam­i­lies ac­com­pa­ny­ing them.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the more than 1 000 em­ploy­ees at the US diplo­matic mis­sions in Rus­sia, in­clud­ing the em­bassy in Mos­cow and con­sulates in St Peters­burg, Vladi­vos­tok and Yeka­ter­in­burg, are lo­cal em­ploy­ees.

Putin men­tioned space and en­ergy as the main ar­eas where Rus­sia and the US had suc­cess­fully pur­sued projects to­gether.

The Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry on Fri­day said it was also clos­ing down a US recre­ational re­treat on the out­skirts of Mos­cow as well as ware­house fa­cil­i­ties.

The diplo­matic tit- for­tat started un­der for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama. In re­sponse to re­ports of Rus­sian med­dling in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Obama or­dered the ex­pul­sion of 35 Rus­sian diplo­mats and shut down two Rus­sian recre­ational re­treats in the US. – ANA-AP

VLADIMIR PUTIN

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