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Iran Press TV

Russia tells US to cut number of diplomats in retaliation

Iran Press TV

Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:0AM

Russia has told the United States to cut the number of its diplomats in the country and stop using embassy storage facilities in the capital, Moscow, following the approval by the US Congress of a sanctions bill against Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the US had to reduce the number of its diplomats on Russian soil to 455 – matching the number of Russian diplomats in America – by September 1.

"The Russian side is suspending the use of all storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow, and a cottage in Serebryaniy Bor by the US Embassy in Russia as of August 1," the ministry further said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had approved the move, according to his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

An American election and a diplomatic war with Russia

The former US administration, headed by Democratic Barack Obama, had expelled 35 Russian diplomats over "spying" and seized two diplomatic premises used by Russia late last year amid allegations that Moscow interfered in the US presidential election in November 2016, in which Republican Donald Trump won the presidency.

Russia complained about the move but had withheld retaliation until now, hoping that relations would improve with the US under its new president – Trump.

But while Trump himself has been perceived as open toward warmer relations with Russia, the US Congress took action to punish Moscow for the alleged interference in the 2016 election.

There have been claims that Russia attempted to sway the election in favor of Trump by hacking computers belonging to his rival's campaign and dumping potentially compromising information online.

Russia has consistently denied the accusations of meddling, and had in the meantime been warning that the US had to return the diplomatic premises. Moscow recently engaged in negotiation with the US to have the premises returned but to no avail. On July 14, Russia said it was running out of patience as a stalemate lingered over the issue.

Handcuffing Trump at the Congress

But the US Congress' approval of new anti-Russia sanctions on Thursday seemed to be the boiling point for Moscow.

The sanctions bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Thursday. It had been approved also overwhelmingly by the US House of Representatives earlier on Tuesday.

President Trump will now have to decide whether to sign it into law or veto it.

The bill puts Trump in a bind over the potential lifting of any sanctions on Russia – a traditionally presidential decision – by stipulating that the Congress would have to approve any such lifting before it can take place.

An independent investigation is meanwhile underway in the US to probe potential links between Trump and Russia.

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