Putin orders US to cut diplomatic staff by 755

Moscow, July 31 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the American diplomatic mission in Moscow to reduce its staff by 755 employees, an aggressive response to the new US sanctions, the media reported.

While making the announcement on Sunday, Putin said Russia had run out of patience waiting for relations with the US to improve, reports The New York Times.

“We waited for quite a long time that, perhaps, something will change for the better, we held out hope that the situation would somehow change,” Putin said in an interview on state-run Rossiya 1 television.

“But, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon.”

Putin said the staff reduction was meant to cause real discomfort for Washington and its representatives in Moscow.

“Over 1,000 employees (diplomats and technical workers in the embassy in Moscow as well as consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg) worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity,” he said.

“That is biting,” Putin added.

The reduction measure set to take effect from September 1, were the harshest such diplomatic move since a similar rupture in 1986, in the waning days of the Soviet Union, The New York Times reported.

The US State Department in response said: “This is a regrettable and uncalled-for act.”

“We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it,” it said in a statement.

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry had demanded the US to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia and said it would seize two American diplomatic properties, a Moscow storage facility and a country house outside the capital, in a sharp response to the new US sanctions bill, reports CNN.

The bill, which passed the Senate on July 27 by a vote of 98-2, would give Congress new power to stop President Donald Trump from easing sanctions against Moscow.

It also would set into law penalties former President Barack Obama’s administration imposed against Russia in December for meddling in the US election last year and for its aggression in Ukraine.

However, Putin has denied any Russian interference in the American election, saying that anti-Russian sentiment in the US was being used to drive an internal political battle.

–IANS

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