Russia Retaliates For Sanctions Approval, Hitting At U.S. Diplomatic Corps

By Bill Chappell NPR

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Stung by new American sanctions, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says the U.S. must downsize its diplomatic and technical staff in Moscow and other cities. The ministry is also suspending the U.S. Embassy’s use of two sites — a storage facility and a dacha on an island in the Moscow River.

President Trump said Friday night he would sign the sanctions legislation because Congress was responsive to his input on the bill.

The ministry says the U.S. has until Sept. 1 to cut the number of its staff at the Moscow embassy and at three consulates to match the exact number of Russian diplomats who are working in the U.S. — 455 people, according to the ministry’s announcement.

After Aug. 1, U.S. staff will also be barred from using a recreational property on the bucolic island of Serebryany Bor, along with being barred from using warehouses on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.

More retaliation could come: The ministry added that it will mirror any further cuts to its staff in America.

The move comes the day after the U.S. Congress gave bilateral approval to a new slate of sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 election. Those sanctions also include punishments for Iran and North Korea. The legislation specifies that President Trump can’t ease the sanctions without congressional approval.

The White House says Trump supports sanctions on the three countries in question and will review the legislation.

The Foreign Ministry’s action comes one day after the prospect of new punishments clearly rankled the Kremlin.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking ahead of the Senate vote, accused U.S. lawmakers of ‘insolence‘ and promised retaliation if the sanctions become law,” as NPR’s Scott Neuman reported Thursday.

At the end of 2016, President Obama cited U.S. findings that Russia had meddled with the recent presidential election when he expelled members of Russia’s diplomatic corps and issued sanctions on Russia’s mining and oil industry.

Obama also ordered Russia’s Foreign Ministry to leave two compounds it owns in Maryland and New York.

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