Russia orders US to cut down diplomatic staff over sanctions row
Russia's foreign ministry said it has decided to bar US diplomats access to a summer house and storage facilities in Moscow from August 1. Photograph: (Reuters)
Russia's foreign ministry today ordered the US to reduce its diplomatic staff after the US Senate voted overwhelmingly late on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia even though President Trump was against the legislation. The bill also imposed sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Russia ordered the US to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 diplomats. The ministry said that this was in response to the passing of a new bill on sanctions by the Senate.
The US House of Representatives had earlier voted 419 to 3 in the House to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and over conclusions by US intelligence agencies that it interfered in the US election. Russia, however, has consistently denied it interfered in the US election, President Trump on his part has always been adamant that his campaign never colluded with the Russians.
The US Senate voted almost unanimously 98-2 on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia. The vote had bipartisan support with both Republicans and Democrats voting on Russia sanctions in huge numbers.
The bill will be sent President Trump who can either sign it or veto, a move which will have huge foreign policy ramifications.
Former President Barack Obama had barred Russian diplomats access to two compounds in the US last December after US intelligence services suspected Russia meddled in the US election. In fact, Obama had taken a tough stand expelling 35 Russian diplomats for spying, a move which was heavily criticised by President Putin.
The Russian foreign ministry said: "We propose to the US side to bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff" working in Russia "in exact accordance" with the number of Russian diplomats and support staff in the United States by September 1.".
The ministry also said it would bar access to a summer house and storage facilities in Moscow used by the US embassy from August 1.