Russian Federation tells U.S. to cut diplomats or face expulsion

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 29, 2017

In December, the outgoing Obama administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds - one in NY and another in Maryland - at the same time as it expelled Russian diplomats.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking ahead of the Senate vote, accused US lawmakers of 'insolence' and promised retaliation if the sanctions become law", as NPR's Scott Neuman reported Thursday.

Relations between the two countries, already at a post-Cold War low, have deteriorated even further after United States intelligence agencies accused Russian Federation of trying to meddle in last year's USA presidential election, something Moscow flatly denies.

It has also upset some European nations fearful that it could hit their businesses. But it appeared to change tack after President Vladimir Putin insisted Thursday that he could not "endlessly tolerate this kind of insolence".

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it will scale down US diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people and seize a USA warehouse and a recreational compound known as a "dacha" in Moscow.

After Aug. 1, US staff will also be barred from using a recreational property on the bucolic island of Serebryany Bor, along with being barred from using warehouses on Moscow's Dorozhnaya Street.

"It is a great pity that Russian-American relations are being sacrificed to this domestic, internal American issue", Putin said at a news conference in Savonlinna, Finland.

Moscow "reserves the right to carry out other measures that could affect the interests of the USA", the statement added.

Lavrov said that Russian Federation was "still ready to normalise bilateral relations with the USA and to cooperate on the most important worldwide issues".

Russian Federation is ready to normalise relations with the United States and to cooperate on major global issues, Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Friday.

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

Earlier, US ambassador in Moscow John Tefft "expressed his strong disappointment and protest" at the development, an embassy spokesperson told AFP.

It was not immediately clear how many US diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave either the country or their posts, but the Interfax news agency cited an informed source as saying "hundreds" of people would be affected.

The punishment announced by Moscow closely resembled punitive measures announced by former President Barack Obama in December. U.S. President Donald Trump had hoped to improve ties but his administration has been clouded by investigations of Russian election meddling. That was over an alleged Kremlin hacking and influence campaign to sway the 2016 United States elections in favour of Trump.

Trump and Putin met for the first time at a G20 summit in Germany this month in what both sides described as a productive encounter, but Russian officials have become increasingly convinced that Congress and Trump's political opponents will not allow him to mend ties, even if he wants to.

Trump repeatedly insisted during his election campaign that he wanted to boost ties with Russian Federation, sparking hope in the Kremlin for an improvement.

But allegations from the U.S. intelligence community that Putin interfered in the United States elections to get Trump elected have made any concessions to Trump politically toxic.

If the bill passes the Senate, it would be sent to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.

According to Lukyanov, Trump will most likely sign the bill, and if he does not, the bill will still be passed as Congress is likely to overrule the presidential veto.

"We have received the Russian government notification".

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