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Putin orders US to cut 755 diplomatic staff in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that 755 staff must leave US diplomatic missions, in retaliation for new US sanctions against Moscow

31 July 2017, 7:59am
Russian President Vladimir Putin said bluntly that Russia was able to raise the stakes with America even further, although he hoped this would be unnecessary
Russian President Vladimir Putin said bluntly that Russia was able to raise the stakes with America even further, although he hoped this would be unnecessary
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States would have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people and that Moscow could consider additional measures against Washington as a response to new US sanctions approved by Congress.

Moscow ordered the US on Friday to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff by 1 September, to bring the number down to 455 people - the same number Moscow has in the US - and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties after the House of Representatives and the Senate approved new sanctions on Russia. The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would sign the sanctions bill.

The new US sanctions were in part a response to conclusions by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, and to punish Russia further for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow has denied interfering in the US election. Moscow retaliated by giving the US the deadline to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, matching the number of Russian diplomats left in the US after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.

"More than a thousand people - diplomats and technical personnel - were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television. "755 people must stop their activities in Russia."

A US State Department official said on Sunday Russia’s decision was “regrettable” and that it was now weighing its options. “This is a regrettable and uncalled for act,” the official said. “We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it.”

The US State Department would not confirm the number of US officials serving at the mission.

Putin added bluntly that Russia was able to raise the stakes with America even further, although he hoped this would be unnecessary.

Putin also said that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon."

"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better," he said. "But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon."