Russia flexes muscles, asks US to cut 755 diplomatic staff

RSTV Bureau
Hamburg : U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the G20 summit in Hamburg Germany, Friday July 7, 2017.AP/PTI

Hamburg : U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the G20 summit in Hamburg Germany, Friday July 7, 2017.AP/PTI

In retaliation to the new US sanctions, Russia has asked the US to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 by September 1.

In response, the US State Department called the move “a regrettable and uncalled for act.”

“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,” Putin added.

Russia is open to cooperating with the US on various issues, including terrorism and cybercrime, but instead it “only hears unfounded accusations of meddling in US domestic affairs,” Putin said.

Moscow said it was ordering the US 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 US Congress.

Putin also threatened to come with further sanctions if needed.

“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 said more than 1,000 people are currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three US consulates in Russia. They include both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.

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. We have no further comment at this time.”

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

(With inputs from agencies)