Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday the United States would have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people and Russia could consider imposing additional measures against the US as a response to new sanctions approved by Congress last week.
Russian state media quoted Putin saying 755 out of “a thousand or so” employees will “have to stop their activities in the Russian Federation.” That includes diplomats and technical workers, he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday demanded that the United States cut its diplomatic staff in Russia and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties, a Moscow storage facility and a country house outside the capital, in a sharp response to the new US sanctions bill. Russia was set to take over the properties effective August 1.
On Sunday, a senior US State Department official responded to Russia’s demand, saying, “This is a regrettable and uncalled for act. We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it.”
In making the announcement, Mr. Putin said Russia had run out of patience waiting for relations with the United States to improve.
“We waited a long time for things to perhaps change for the better,” state media quoted Putin as saying. “We had such hope that the situation would change, but judging by the situation that will not be soon.”
Putin said Russia would refrain from taking further steps for now. “If the time comes, we can consider other options for responding. But I hope it doesn’t come to that. As of today, I’m against it.”
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov called sanctions aimed at penalizing Russia for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election “a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation”.
This aggressive response to new American sanctions seemed to increase tensions between the two capitals as Putin repeated that the US sanctions were a step to worsening relations between the two countries.