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US calls Vladimir Putin’s expulsion of diplomats from Russia ‘regrettable and uncalled for’

'I thought it was the time to show that we're not going to leave it without an answer,' says Russian President

Monday 31 July 2017 07:47 BST
Moscow announced it would expel American staff in retaliation for tough new sanctions from Washington
Moscow announced it would expel American staff in retaliation for tough new sanctions from Washington (AFP)

The US State Department has called Russia">Russia's decision to kick out hundreds of American diplomats "a regrettable and uncalled for act".

President Vladimir Putin has said the US will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 under new sanctions from Moscow.

On Friday, Russian's foreign ministry ordered a reduction in the number of US diplomats in response to new sanctions approved by Congress and sent to Donald Trump to be signed into law.

Two days later, Mr Putin said the US would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755.

The Russian President said more than 1,000 people were currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three US consulates in Russia, including both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.

In an interview shown on state television, Mr Putin said he ordered the move because he thought it was time to show "we're not going to leave that without an answer".

The US legislation, which also targets Iran and North Korea, seeks to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 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," Mr Putin said.

"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 issues, including terrorism and cybercrime, but instead it "only hears unfounded accusations of meddling in US domestic affairs", Mr Putin said.

The US 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."

The State Department would not 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 on diplomatic passports.

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

Asked about the potential for additional sanctions against Washington, Mr Putin described the reduction in diplomatic staff, which must happen by 1 September, as "painful" and said he currently opposed further measures.

"We certainly have something to respond with and restrict those areas of joint co-operation 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.

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

Along with the cap on the size of the US diplomatic corps in Russia, the Russian foreign ministry said on Friday it also was closing down a US recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

The diplomatic tit-for-tat started under former US president Barack Obama.

In response to reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Mr Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the US.


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