File photo shows the US embassy in Moscow. (AP photo)
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday the United States would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 under new sanctions from Moscow.
Russian’s Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in the number of US diplomats in Russia. It said it is ordering the US embassy to limit the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455 in response to the US Senate’s approval of a new package of sanctions.
“We had hoped that the situation will somehow change, but apparently if it changes, it won’t be soon,” Putin said in an interview televised on Rossiya 1, explaining why Moscow decided to retaliate. “I thought it was the time to show that we’re not going to leave it without an answer.”
Putin said more than 1,000 people are currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three US consulates in Russia. They include both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.
Russia is open to cooperating with the US on various issues including terrorism and cybercrime but instead it “only hears unfounded accusations of meddling in US domestic affairs,” the Russian leader said.
Asked about the potential for additional sanctions against Washington, Putin described the reduction in diplomatic staff as “painful” and said he currently opposes further measures.
“We certainly have something to respond with and restrict those areas of joint cooperation that will be painful for the American side but I don’t think we need to do it,” he said, adding that such steps could also harm Russian interests.
Putin mentioned space and energy as the main areas where Russia and the United States have successfully pursued projects together.
Along with the cap on the size of its diplomatic corps in Russia, the Russian foreign ministry on Friday said it also was closing down a US recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.
The diplomatic tit-for-tat started under former US President Barack Obama. In response to reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the US