World

Putin orders US to cut 755 diplomatic staff

MOSCOW/WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people and that Moscow could consider additional measures against Washington as a response to new US sanctions approved by Congress.

Moscow ordered the US on Friday to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties after the US House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia.

Mr Putin said in an interview with Vesti TV released on Sunday that the US will have to do the cut by Sept 1.

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The new US sanctions were partly a response to conclusions by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the US presidential election last year and to punish Russia further for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia's response suggested it had set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under the Trump administration, something President Donald Trump, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.

Moscow said on Friday that the US has to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, matching the number of Russian diplomats left in the US after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.

As of 2013, the US mission in Russia employed 1,279 people, according to a State Department Inspector General's report that year.

That included 934 "locally employed" staff and 301 US "direct-hire" staff, the report said. That breakdown suggested the actual number of Americans forced to leave Russia would be far less than 755. - REUTERS

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