Russia warns of harsh response to fresh US diplomatic sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says tit-for-tat closure of diplomatic offices was started by the Obama administration "precisely with the purpose of undermining Russian-American relations and preventing Trump from making constructive proposals during his presidency"

2 September 2017, 8:56am
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that his country will "respond harshly to things that will damage us" in the wake of fresh US sanctions, accusing the United States on Friday of a "gross violation of international law" 

The ominous statement comes after a tit-for-tat closure of diplomatic offices in both countries.  Last month Russia was informed that it must close its consulate in San Francisco and connected offices in New York and Washington. That move, in turn, followed Moscow's reduction of US diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people in July.

The state department said the closure of the offices were made "in the spirit of parity".

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said US relations with Russia were at a "dangerous low" amid a row with Congress over the fresh sanctions against Moscow.

Mr Lavrov, however, blamed the Obama administration for starting the diplomatic row in December. President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, and closed two compounds over Russian action in Crimea and alleged interference in the US election.

"It was started precisely with the purpose of undermining Russian-American relations and preventing Trump from making constructive proposals during his presidency," Lavrov stated, "to make it as difficult as possible for him to implement his election promises to normalise relations with Russia."

He said Russia was still considering its response to the latest action. "One does not want to go into a frenzy, because someone has to be reasonable and stop," a senior foreign policy advisor is quoted as saying.

The 755 expelled US diplomats must leave Russia by Friday - a day before the US closes the Russian consulate and the offices of two trade missions, must be completed.

A senior Trump administration official said on Thursday that the premises would close but no Russian staff would be required to leave the country.