Russia Moves Against US Diplomats In Retaliation For Sanctions

Elias Hubbard
July 30, 2017

The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded Friday that the United States cut its diplomatic staff in Russia and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties in a sharp response to a new sanctions bill the US Congress passed a day earlier.

Moscow has already responded, ordering a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russian Federation and closing the U.S. Embassy's recreation retreat. Russian Federation will also close down the embassy's recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

On Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers reached an agreement, clearing the way for the Senate to pass a measure as soon as this week to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation and bar the president from easing sanctions on Moscow if Congress objects.

The Russian president said he "very much regrets" worsening relations with the U.S. The sanctions also included the closure of two Russian compounds, in Maryland and NY, used for intelligence purposes.

INSKEEP: Well, now that the sanctions are being imposed, I'd like to ask a question about the timing here because Russian Federation chose to act after the House and Senate voted on these sanctions but before President Trump signed it.

INSKEEP: Oh. So this is, in a way, mirroring these sanctions that were imposed on Russia by President Obama back in December - right? - when he also closed some diplomatic facilities and threw some Russian diplomats out of the country. In the end, both chambers passed it overwhelmingly.

According to a statement late Friday, Trump "read early drafts of the bill" and after negotiating "critical elements", has reviewed the final version approved almost unanimously by Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats alike had predicted a swift veto override if Trump did try to thwart the measure.

But faced with heavy bipartisan support for the bill in the House and Senate, the president has little choice but to sign the bill into law.

Once Trump receives the bill, if he does not sign it, he has 10 days, excluding Sundays, before he must issue a veto and prevent the bill from becoming law automatically.

"This goes beyond all reasonable bounds", Putin said.

A team of House and Senate negotiators late last week resolved several lingering issues with the sanctions bill and also agreed to add the North Korea penalties.

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. However, Putin at that point took a magnanimous tone, saying they could stay and that he would await Trump's inauguration before taking further action.

In its statement, the White House said Trump "negotiated regarding critical elements" of early drafts of the bill and approved of the final draft "based on its responsiveness to his negotiations".

"The sought [after] sanctions against pipeline projects are designed to boost energy exports from the USA to Europe, create jobs in the United States, and strengthen U.S. foreign policy", Harms said. And then Putin stepped in at the last minute and said, we're not going to do anything.

The ministry said the number was being cut to 455 diplomats.

But Russia, Lavrov said, is ready to normalize bilateral relations and cooperate on important issues on the worldwide agenda.

However, Trump can impose new sanctions on Russian Federation at any time through an executive order.

He added that the situation could then be used as an opportunity to lift European Union sanctions against Russia, Austria Press Agency reports.

There is an understanding that with the new restrictive measures the USA is trying to push forward its own interests in the energy sector, Die Welt quoted Michael Harms, Managing Director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, as saying. "And now these sanctions - they are also absolutely unlawful from the point of view of global law".

Beebe said Trump's signature will confirm to the Russians "that he's lost control of Russia policy".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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