Kathmanud. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed Sunday the staff at US diplomatic missions in Russia will be cut in response to a sanctions bill the US Congress passed 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 President sought to reduce the number of US diplomats operating in Russia to 455, a figure equal to the number of Russian diplomats in the United States, according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday. The statement gave a deadline of September 1 for the staff cuts.
The United States has not identified how many diplomatic employees are in Russia. Russia’s state television, First Channel, reported Saturday that 745 of 1,200 people employed at the US embassy and consulates would be affected.
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.”
Putin had hoped relations would improve with the United States, but now says it does not appear that will happen soon, according to state media.
“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.”
On taking retaliatory measures, Putin said, “I thought it was time for us to show that we will not leave this without an answer. As for other possible measures, or whether it is a lot or not, this is quite sensible from the point of view of the work of the diplomatic department. …” (CNN)