Russia retaliates

Reporting by Amy Kellogg

Russia is retaliating and as a result hundreds of American diplomats will have to pack their bags and leave the country by September first.

Staff at the US Embassy and consulates will now be capped at 455 people, the same number Russia has in the United States, and the Serebryanni Bor compound where Americans working in Russia would vacation will be off limits as of next week. Storage facilities used by the American Embassy in Moscow will also be closed in a matter of days.

The US Ambassador has expressed “strong disappointment and protest.”

The moves from Moscow signal payback for the new sanctions passed by Congress this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin said enough is enough.

“It is impossible to endlessly endure boorish behavior toward our country.”

A key aspect of the new legislation is congressional control. It removes the president’s authority to remove any sanctions without the blessing of Congress.

In addition, the bill puts new restrictions on a wide range of entities from weapons suppliers to corrupt individuals and it punishes Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential campaigns.

The sanctions bill had overwhelming bipartisan support.

“It sends a message to him and the rest of the world,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. Any further attempts to degrade our democracy will meet further sanctions and action. We will not stand by idly as this is done. There is no process that is more sacred.”

President Obama seized two Russian diplomatic properties in the US last December and expelled 35 diplomats. President Putin did not respond at the time. Analysts say the Kremlin was banking on better relations with incoming President Trump and didn’t want to rock the boat.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did speak with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov who said the Russian movers were not an eye for an eye but a forced step. That said, Lavrov claims Russia is still ready to normalize relations.


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