Russia keeps its promise and retaliates against the U.S.Just days after the White House announced President Trump will sign off on new sanctions passed in Congress.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the United States will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 by Sept. 1 in response to expanded U.S. sanctions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had announced Friday that it was ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455. Putin on Sunday confirmed the number in an interview on state TV.
“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.”
The cuts would make the diplomatic missions in the U.S. and Moscow the same size, he said.
The U.S. State Department called Putin’s move “a regrettable and uncalled-for act.”
The Senate voted Thursday 98-2 to approve a new package of tougher financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The main goal of the legislation was to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
President Trump, who is beset by allegations of possible collusion by his campaign with Russia, had previously objected to checks on his power to ease sanctions. But the new legislation prevents Trump from doing so unless approved by Congress. On Friday, the White House said the president intended to sign the sanctions package.
Before he left office, President Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 diplomats in response to the election interference, which Russia has denied. Putin did not retaliate at the time in hopes that Trump would roll back the sanctions.
It was not clear how many reassignments the reduction in staff would mean from the Moscow embassy and the three U.S. consulates in Russia.
Asked about the possibility of more penalties against Washington, Putin called the reduction in diplomatic staff “painful” and said he opposes further measures.