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Putin says US will have to shed 755 from diplomatic staff

03 Août 2017

Russian Federation urged the United States to show the political will to mend relations on Monday after Vladimir Putin ordered drastic cuts to the American diplomatic mission.

Putin noted that Russian Federation has levers to hurt the U.S.in a few areas where they cooperate, but he voiced hope he won't have to do that because such moves would hurt Moscow's own interests.

The reductions, reminiscent of massive Cold War-era expulsions of diplomats, follow stiff, new sanctions against Russian Federation approved by the U.S. Congress.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it seized two American diplomatic properties: one on the outskirts of Moscow and the other a warehouse facility in the city.

Moscow's move showed that its earlier hopes for an improvement in Russia-U.S. ties after Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election have withered.

On Sunday, Putin ordered 755 American diplomats to leave the Russian territories in response to the United States vote last Thursday to slap new sanctions on Moscow.

Putin finally chose to respond following an overwhelming approval of a new package of anti-Russian sanctions by the U.S. Congress. It said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy to limit the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455 in response to the U.S. Senate's approval of a new package of sanctions.

Mr Putin's order is created to show he is prepared to stand up to America after Congress passed a sanctions bill punishing Russian Federation for alleged interference in the 2016 election and the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The Russian response will cut a bulk of the American diplomatic workers now employed in Moscow and elsewhere which is estimated to be in the range of 1,200 people.

A Russian analyst, Nikolai Petrov of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said the move reflects the Kremlin's disillusionment with Trump: "These measures are tough, and it is linked to a deep disappointment that came after the euphoria linked to the arrival of Donald Trump [to power], and to the idea that today we will start our relations anew".

"Obviously, if such a slowdown in [the issuing of] visas takes place, the reasons would have nothing to do with staff cuts".

As Congress negotiated the bill for weeks, Trump aides objected because of a provision that gives lawmakers 30 days to review and block any effort by the president to ease sanctions against Russian Federation.

Jeffrey Edmonds, the former director for Russian Federation at the White House National Security Council, said he was taken aback by the magnitude of Putin's response. Numerous president's critics said any easing of sanctions would be viewed as payback for Russian Federation helping him win the US election. According to the State Department's website, the appointment wait time is 38 calendar days. The U.S. administration has instead focused on Russia's relations with neighbors like Ukraine and Georgia.

On Friday, Russian's foreign ministry ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats by September 1, in response to new sanctions approved by Congress and sent to USA president Donald Trump to be signed into law.

Trump aides had objected to the measure because of inclusion of a provision that gives Congress 30 days to review and block any Trump effort to ease sanctions against Russian Federation, including those imposed by former President Barack Obama for Russia's interference in the election.

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

Putin says US will have to shed 755 from diplomatic staff