Russia Orders US To Cut Diplomatic Staff In Response To Sanctions

US OKs new sanctions against Russia Iran North Korea

Late on Thursday, the Senate voted 98 to 2 in favour of a bill passed earlier by the House that strengthens existing sanctions on Russian Federation and gives Congress the power to block President Donald Trump from lifting them.

The legislation includes language that bars Trump from easing or waiving the additional penalties on Russian Federation unless Congress agrees.

New U.S. sanctions were in part a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian Federation meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and to further punish Russian Federation for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Officials with the Russian Foreign Ministry say they will reduce the number of US diplomats in their country by September first.

The Russian government also seized two American facilities - a recreational country house outside Moscow and a storage facility in the Russian capital. The ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that a diplomatic personnel reduction would occur.

The vast majority of the 1,000-plus employees at the various United States diplomatic missions in Russian Federation, including the embassy in Moscow and consulates in St Petersburg, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg, are locals.

Republican Sen. John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russian Federation, said before the vote: "The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy".

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The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said the passage of the bill confirmed "the extreme aggression of the United States in global affairs".

The new sanctions bill would add to a raft of coordinated sanctions the United States and European Union imposed in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea and its interference in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election have put a damper on hopes for better ties that the Kremlin had pinned on Trump's presidency.

The bill underwent revisions to address concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia's energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow's benefit.

"There is currently 600-700 [personnel] now, and the cut will be very painful to them", the source said, pointing out that the reduction would affect 200-300 USA staff members.

Obama also ordered Russia's Foreign Ministry to leave two compounds it owns in Maryland and NY. They include both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.

The order means the United States would have to cut "hundreds" of personnel at its embassy and consulates in Russian Federation, according to a diplomat familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Speaking on ABC's This Week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov referred to a bill passed by Congress on Thursday to sanction his country as "weird and unacceptable", and said it was "the last straw".

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