Russia Retaliates For Sanctions Approval, Hitting At US Diplomatic Corps

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Russian Federation on Friday ordered a reduction in the number of USA diplomats allowed in Russian Federation and said it was closing down a US recreational retreat in response to the US approval of a new package of stiff financial sanctions against Russian Federation.

The move comes the day after the U.S. Congress gave bilateral approval to a new slate of sanctions on Russian Federation over its interference in the 2016 election.

Trump had hoped to improve ties but his administration has been clouded by investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump.

Moscow's retaliation, announced by the Foreign Ministry on Friday, had echoes of the Cold War.

"There is a bipartisan consensus to confront Russian Federation across the board - from its actions in Ukraine, Syria, cyber, its election meddling - you name it", said Boris Zilberman, a Russian Federation sanctions expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The new American sanctions were in retaliation both for Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russian interference in the USA 2016 presidential election. But in a statement late Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had "reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it".

"A way back is very hard to imagine because Russian Federation is forced to retaliate", Fasbender told RT.

"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better", he said.

Earlier this month, it was revealed Mr Trump's eldest son, his campaign manager and his son-in-law, had met with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin after they were told she had compromising material about Mr Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton. "The latest events show that in well-known circles in the United States, Russophobia and a course toward open confrontation with our country have taken hold".

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russian Federation for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday that the Senate vote was the last straw.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says Minister Sergei Lavrov has told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call that Moscow was forced to respond to the new package of US sanctions and that it is still willing to improve ties with Washington.

While the USA side has not commented on the issue so far, the Western media rushed to ask Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova to give the number of U.S. diplomatic staff.

The statement said that the number of USA diplomatic personnel is to be reduced to 455 people, the number that Russian Federation now has in the US, by September 1.

Russians could strike out at the United States in any number of ways, continuing to target the USA diplomatic presence in Russia and U.S. properties there, and escalating its harassment of USA diplomats.

An official at the US Embassy, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, said the Embassy employed around 1,100 diplomatic and support staff in Russia, including Russian and US citizens.

"In the event of new unilateral steps by the US authorities to reduce the number of our diplomats in the USA, a tit-for-tat response will follow", the ministry said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met outgoing USA ambassador John Tefft today to inform him of the counter measures, Russian news agencies reported. "Ambassador Tefft expressed his strong disappointment and protest". It covers the main embassy in Moscow, as well as missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Russia's move against United States diplomats is delayed payback for an Obama administration decision in December to expel Russian envoys and seize their holiday compounds, a response to Moscow's interference in the presidential election campaign.

In December, the outgoing Obama administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds - one in NY and another in Maryland - at the same time as it expelled Russian diplomats. Both Republicans and Democrats alike had predicted a swift veto override if Trump did try to thwart the measure. He said he hoped for cooperation with Russian Federation that would make the sanctions unnecessary.

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