Russia to expel 755 US diplomatic staff over new sanctions
Vladimir Putin says more measures against the US may be taken – but not at the moment
Russian president Vladimir Putin said the US sanctions were a step to worsening relations between the two countries. Photograph: EPA/Maxim Shipenkov
Moscow ordered the US on Friday to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties after the US House of Representatives and the Senate approved new sanctions on Russia.
Mr Putin said in an interview with Vesti TV that 755 US diplomatic and technical staff would have to leave Russia by September 1st.
“Because more than 1,000 workers – diplomats and support staff – were working and are still working in Russia, 755 must stop their activity in the Russian Federation, ” he said.
New US sanctions were in part a response to conclusions by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Moscow said on Friday that the US had until September 1st to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, matching the number of Russian diplomats left in the US after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.
On Friday an official at the US embassy, who did not wish to be identified, said the embassy employed about 1,100 diplomatic and support people in Russia, including Russian and US citizens.
Mr Putin said that Russia could take more measures against the US but not at the moment. “I am against it as of today,” Mr Putin said in the interview with Vesti TV. He repeated that the US sanctions were a step to worsening relations between the two countries.
“We were waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, were holding out hope that the situation would change somehow. But it appears that even if it changes someday it will not change soon,” Mr Putin said.
However, he said Moscow and Washington were achieving results on cooperation even “in this quite difficult situation”. The creation of the southern de-escalation zone in Syria showed a concrete result of the joint work between the two countries, Mr Putin said.