Putin says US will have to shed 755 from diplo­matic staff

El Dorado News-Times - - International -

MOS­COW (AP) — Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said Sun­day the United States would have to cut its em­bassy and con­sulate staff in Rus­sia by 755 un­der new sanc­tions from Mos­cow.

In re­sponse, the U.S. State Depart­ment deemed it "a re­gret­table and un­called for act."

Rus­sian's For­eign Min­istry on Fri­day or­dered a re­duc­tion by Sept. 1 in the num­ber of U.S. diplo­matic per­son­nel in Rus­sia. It said it is or­der­ing the U.S. Em­bassy to limit the num­ber of em­bassy and con­sular em­ploy­ees in the coun­try to 455 in re­sponse to ap­proval of a new pack­age of sanc­tions by the U.S. Congress. The White House has said U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would sign those sanc­tions into law.

"We had hoped that the sit­u­a­tion will some­how change, but ap­par­ently if it changes, it won't be soon," Putin said in an in­ter­view tele­vised on Ros­siya 1, 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 co­op­er­at­ing with the U.S. on var­i­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism and cy­ber­crime, but in­stead it "only hears un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions of med­dling in U.S. do­mes­tic af­fairs," he said.

Putin said more than 1,000 peo­ple are cur­rently em­ployed at the Mos­cow em­bassy and three U.S. 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.

In a state­ment, the State Depart­ment said: "This is a re­gret­table and un­called for act. We are as­sess­ing the im­pact of such a lim­i­ta­tion and how we will re­spond to it. We have no fur­ther com­ment at this time."

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

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

Asked about the po­ten­tial

for ad­di­tional sanc­tions against Wash­ing­ton, Putin de­scribed the re­duc­tion in diplo­matic staff as "painful" and said he cur­rently op­poses fur­ther mea­sures.

"We cer­tainly have some­thing to re­spond with and re­strict those ar­eas of joint co­op­er­a­tion that will be painful

for the Amer­i­can side, but I don't think we need to do it," he said, adding that such steps could also harm Rus­sian in­ter­ests.

Putin men­tioned space and en­ergy as the main ar­eas where Rus­sia and the United States have suc­cess­fully pur­sued projects to­gether.

Along with the cap on the size of the U.S. diplo­matic corps in Rus­sia, the Rus­sian for­eign min­istry on Fri­day

said it also was clos­ing down a U.S. recre­ational re­treat on the out­skirts of Mos­cow as well as ware­house fa­cil­i­ties.

The diplo­matic tit-for­tat started un­der for­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. In re­sponse to re­ports of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Obama or­dered the ex­pul­sion of 35 Rus­sian diplo­mats and shut down two Rus­sian recre­ational re­treats in the U.S.

Alexan­der Zem­lianichenko/AP

Navy Day: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, cen­ter, De­fence Min­is­ter Sergei Shoigu, left, Com­man­der-in-Chief of the Rus­sian Navy Vladimir Korolev, right, and Com­man­der of West­ern mil­i­tary dis­trict An­drei Kar­tapolov ar­rive to at­tend the mil­i­tary pa­rade dur­ing the Navy Day cel­e­bra­tion in St.Peters­burg, Rus­sia, Sun­day.

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