Putin Tells 755 US Diplomats to Leave Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin is ordering 755 U.S. diplomats out of the country in retaliation to new U.S. sanctions over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Putin told a Russian television network, “More than a thousand people were working and are still working” at the U.S. embassy and consulates, and “755 people must stop their activities in Russia.”
Putin said Moscow could take more retaliatory steps against the U.S. but said, “I am against it as of today.”
The U.S. State Department called Putin’s order “a regrettable and uncalled for act” and says it is assessing how to respond.
Moscow said the expulsion of hundreds of U.S. envoys by September 1 would leave both countries with the same number of diplomats – 455.
Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ABC News’ This Week , “I think this retaliation is long, long overdue.”
He said Moscow has “a very rich toolbox at our disposal. It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen. But I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things.”
The White House says President Donald Trump will sign legislation passed by Congress imposing the new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
Watch: Trump Expected to Sign New Russia Sanctions
Trump aides had objected to the measure because of a provision that gives Congress 30 days to review and block any Trump effort to ease sanctions against Russia. These include sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama for Russia’s interference in the election.
But the Senate approved the new sanctions last week 98 to 2, meaning lawmakers would could override a Trump veto
Ryabkov called the Senate vote “the last drop” on what he described as “a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation.”
Obama closed two Russian compounds in the United States and expelled 35 diplomats in late December, less than a month before leaving office. But Moscow did not retaliate in kind until last week, when it shut two U.S. facilities in Russia and ordered the American diplomats out of the country by September 1.
Political analysts in the United States had thought Trump, in an attempt to ease tensions with Putin, might overturn the Obama sanctions when he assumed power, but he did not.
Since then, the early months of Trump’s presidency have been consumed by numerous investigations of Russian meddling in the election, including whether Trump aides colluded with Moscow to help him win. The probes are also looking at whether Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey who was leading the agency’s Russia investigation.
Another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, was named to take over the criminal investigation.
Moscow has rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Putin personally directed Moscow’s interference in the election. Trump has dismissed the investigations as a “witch hunt” and an excuse by Democrats to explain his upset win over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Ryabkov told ABC, “If the U.S. side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate. But my whole point is don’t do this, it is to the detriment of the interests of the U.S.”
The Russian diplomat said, “I believe there are several areas where the U.S. and Russia can and should work together cooperatively. Nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countering terrorism, illicit immigration, trafficking in people, climate change, you name it.”
“We are ready, we are stretching our hand forward, we are hopeful that someone on the other side, President Trump included, but also others may see here a chance for a somewhat different way,” he added.