The decision came after the US House of Representatives and the Senate approved new sanctions on Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin say the US has to remove the staff by September 1.

Russian sailors stand in attention as Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves after attending the military parade during the Navy Day celebration in Saint Petersburg on July 30, 2017.
Russian sailors stand in attention as Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves after attending the military parade during the Navy Day celebration in Saint Petersburg on July 30, 2017.

President Vladimir Putin said the United States would have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people and that Russia could consider imposing additional measures against the US 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 approved new sanctions on Russia. The White House said on Friday that US President Donald Trump would sign the sanctions bill.

Putin said in an interview with Vesti TV released on Sunday that the United States would have to cut its diplomatic and technical staff by 755 people by September 1.

"Because more than 1,000 workers diplomats and support staff were working and are still working in Russia, 755 must stop their activity in the Russian Federation," he said.

TRT World spoke to journalist Dasha Chernyshova.

New sanctions

The new US sanctions were partly a response to conclusions by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, and to punish Russia further for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow has denied interfering in the US election.

Moscow said on Friday that the United States had until September 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, matching the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.

On Friday, an official at the US Embassy, who did not wish to be identified, said the embassy employed about 1,100 diplomatic and support staff in Russia, including Russian and US citizens.

The State Department declined to comment on the exact number of embassy and consular staff in Russia. But an official decries as "regrettable" Russia's decision.

"This is a regrettable and uncalled for act," the official said. "We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it."

As of 2013, the US mission in Russia, including the Moscow embassy and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, employed 1,279 staff, according to a State Department Inspector General's report that year. That included 934 "locally employed" staff and 301 US "direct-hire" staff, from 35 US government agencies, the report said.

Visa wait times

That breakdown suggested the actual number of Americans forced to leave Russia would be far less than 755.

"We don't have 755 American diplomats in Russia," said Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, in a post on Twitter on Sunday.

The cuts would likely affect how quickly the United States is able to process Russian applications for US visas, McFaul said.

"If these cuts are real, Russians should expect to wait weeks if not months to get visas to come to US," he said.

Putin said Russia could take more measures against the United States, but not at the moment.

"I am against it as of today," Putin said in the interview with Vesti TV.

He repeated that the US sanctions were a step to worsening relations between the two countries.

"We were waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, were holding out hope that the situation would change somehow. But it appears that even if it changes someday it will not change soon," Putin said.

He said Moscow and Washington were achieving results on cooperation, however, even "in this quite difficult situation." The creation of the southern de-escalation zone in Syria showed a concrete result of the joint work between the two countries, Putin said.

Source: TRT World