Putin Orders Hundreds of US Diplomats Out

Putin Orders Hundreds of US Diplomats OutPutin Orders Hundreds of US Diplomats Out

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded the United States cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people, underlining his displeasure with US sanctions and heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Putin’s announcement Sunday came three days after the US Congress approved sanctions against Russia and just hours after US Vice President Mike Pence landed in Estonia, which borders Russia, for talks with the country that holds the rotating European Union presidency,  AP reported.

Russian’s Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in US diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 people in response to a new package of American sanctions. The White House says President Donald Trump will sign those sanctions into law.

The sanctions, which also target Iran and North Korea, seek 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,” Putin told 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.”

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,” he said.

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.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday it would be up to Washington to choose which of its diplomatic staff in Russia would be cut.

He said that Russian citizens working for the United States Embassy could be among the 755 staff to go, as well as US diplomats.

In a statement, the 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 vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various US diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg, are local employees.


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