Russia has ordered America to cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in the country and has seized a dacha compound and warehouse used by US officials in retaliation for new sanctions against Moscow.
Embassy staff must leave the country by 1 September, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, in a move triggered by the US Senate’s near unanimous vote to slap new sanctions on Russia, further hurting its fragile economy.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry demanded Friday that the United States cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in Russia and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties, in a sharp response to a new sanctions bill passed by the US Congress a day earlier.
The order which affects the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok would reduce the number of US diplomatic and technical staff to 455, the same number Russia has in the US, by September 1.
Thirty-five Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States in December under sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama in response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election. The sanctions also included the closure of two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used for intelligence purposes.
The US embassy’s recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow will be closed as well as warehouse facilities.
The number of American diplomats will fall to 455 under the plan, the Foreign Ministry added. It was not immediately clear how many US diplomats now serve in Russia.
Relations between Russia and the United States dropped to a post-Cold War low following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine in 2014.