Russia orders out U.S. diplomats in sanctions retaliation
Russia on Friday ordered the United States to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff in retaliation for a new round of U.S. sanctions, and said it was seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Moscow's decision, which had echoes of the Cold War, was announced by the Foreign Ministry a day after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia. The bill now passes to President Donald Trump for final approval.
Russia had been threatening retaliation for weeks. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the U.S. leader, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.
Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to meddle in last year's U.S. presidential election to boost Trump's chances, something Moscow flatly denies.
The new sanctions were in part a response to the agencies' findings that Russia did meddle in the election, and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The Russian Foreign Ministry complained of growing anti-Russian feeling in the United States, accusing "well-known circles" of seeking "open confrontation".
President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would have to retaliate against what he called boorish U.S. behavior, and Dmitry Peskov, his spokesman, told reporters on Friday that the Senate vote was the last straw.
A top White House aide said on Thursday that Trump might veto the legislation in order to push for a tougher deal. But the bill is expected to garner enough support in both chambers to override any veto.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.
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