Rus­sia re­tal­i­ates against pro­posed U.S. sanc­tions

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

MOSCOW — Rus­sia took its first steps Fri­day to re­tal­i­ate against pro­posed U.S. sanc­tions for Moscow’s sus­pected med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion, seiz­ing two U.S. diplo­matic prop­er­ties and or­der­ing the U.S. Em­bassy to re­duce staff by Septem­ber.

The moves, which Rus­sia had been threat­en­ing for weeks, came a day af­ter the U.S. Se­nate ap­proved a mea­sure to ex­pand eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia, as well as against Iran and North Korea. The bill, mir­ror­ing one passed by the House on Tues­day, now goes to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his sig­na­ture.

In its state­ment, the Rus- sian For­eign Min­istry noted that the U.S. Congress had voted to toughen sanc­tions. “This yet again at­tests to the ex­treme ag­gres­sive­ness of the United States when it comes to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs,” the state­ment said.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, said the Rus­sian leader had signed off on the mea­sures de­spite say­ing a day ear­lier that he would wait for the fi­nal ver­sion of the law be­fore tak­ing any such steps.

The ver­sion that emerged from the Se­nate vote late Thurs­day seemed to be the fi­nal ver­sion, Peskov noted, and the White House has al­ready sug­gested that it might re­ject this law in fa- vor of some­thing even more oner­ous.

“The White House said that the bill could be tough­ened, so it doesn’t change the essence of the sit­u­a­tion,” Peskov said.

It is un­clear whether Trump will sign the leg­is­la­tion. Given the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and the Krem­lin, and con­sid­er­ing that the Repub­li­can Party has ma­jori­ties in the House and the Se­nate, he is un­der con­sid­er­able pres­sure not to use his veto.

But the White House has been am­biva­lent about whether Trump will give his ap­proval. Dur­ing his cam­paign for the pres­i­dency, Trump pledged to im­prove ties with Rus­sia.

The state­ment from the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry said that the U.S. Em­bassy was asked to re­duce its diplo­matic and tech­ni­cal staff mem­bers in Rus­sia to 455 by Sept. 1, match­ing the num­ber of Rus­sian diplo­mats in the United States.

In ad­di­tion to the main em­bassy in Moscow, the United States main­tains con­sulates in St. Peters­burg, Vladi­vos­tok and Yeka­ter­in­burg.

Start­ing on Aug. 1, Rus­sia will also block ac­cess to a ware­house in Moscow and to a bu­colic site along the Moscow River where staff mem­bers walk their dogs and hold bar­be­cues.

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