Russia responds to sanctions by expelling 755 US diplomats

VIDEO: REUTERS
Russian policemen stand guard in front of the US Embassy in Moscow on n Dec 30, 2016.
Russian policemen stand guard in front of the US Embassy in Moscow on n Dec 30, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (NY TIMES/AFP) - President Vladimir Putin announced on Sunday that 755 United States diplomats would be expelled from Russia by Sept 1 in response to the new law passed in Congress last week expanding sanctions against Russia.

Although the expulsions had been announced Friday, the president's statement was the first to confirm the large number involved.

Speaking in a television interview on the Rossiya 1 network, Putin said that Russia's patience in waiting for improved relations with the US had worn out.

"We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better, had such hope that the situation will somehow change, but, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon," Putin said in the interview, according to Interfax news agency.

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The Russian foreign ministry had earlier demanded Washington cut its diplomatic presence in Russia by September to 455 - the same number Moscow has in the US.

 

"More than a thousand people were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television. "755 people must stop their activities in Russia.

" Putin added that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon".

On Thursday (July 27), the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

 

Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The law now goes to President Donald Trump who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign.

Moscow on Friday (July 28) also froze two embassy compounds - a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city - from August 1.

In December, the then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.