MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday the United States would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow three days after the U.S. Congress approved sanctions against Russia.
In response, the U.S. State Department deemed it “a regrettable and uncalled for act.”
Russian’s Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia. It said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy to limit the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455 in response to approval of the new package of American sanctions. The White House has said U.S. President Donald Trump would sign those sanctions into law.
The legislation, which also targets Iran and North Korea, seeks to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
“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.”
Russia is open to cooperating with the U.S. on various issues, including terrorism and cybercrime, but instead it “only hears unfounded accusations of meddling in U.S. domestic affairs,” he said.
Putin said more than 1,000 people are currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three U.S. consulates in Russia. They include both Americans and Russians hired to work in the diplomatic offices.
The Russian leader did not explain how the figure of 755 positions was calculated.