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31 July 2017, 12:55 | Floyd Cook
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov looks on at the start of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva Thomson Reuters
Olson said Ambassador John Tefft "expressed his strong disappointment and protest" with the move and passed the Russian government's notification to Washington for review.
The Foreign Ministry said that the U.S. had until September 1 to bring the total number of diplomatic and technical personnel in Russian Federation to 455, the same number as it said Russian Federation has in the U.S. The ministry also ousted the U.S. from a recreation retreat and warehouse in Moscow.
The decision, which carries echoes of the Cold War, was announced by the Foreign Ministry a day after the US Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russian Federation.
Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations that Russian cyber interference in the election was meant to boost Trump's chances, something Moscow flatly denies. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson could not immediately say how many people had to leave to meet Russia's new requirements.
Moscow has also suspended from August 1 use by the US embassy the warehouses in Dorozhnaya Street and the property in Serebryany Bor, in response to anti-Russia sanctions bill passed by the US Congress on July 27, a Foreign Ministry statement said.
"(The Russians) have taken Trump's measure and while they are willing to exploit his goofy fixation on Putin and naive sense you can do deals with someone like Putin. they realise his clownish performance as president makes it really hard for him to deliver on any of the big things that Russia wants", said Andrew Weiss, a former national security council Russia expert.
An attempt by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to portray Russian sanctions legislation as a sign Americans want Russia to improve relations with the U.S. has been derided by Moscow.
Tefft referred to Moscow's decision to reduce the number of United States diplomats in Russian Federation to 455 by September 1, as well as the suspension of the use of all storage facilities by the U.S. embassy as of August 1.
The new USA sanctions were drawn up in part to punish Russian Federation further for annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The new package of sanctions aims to hit President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle by targeting allegedly corrupt officials, human rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports. The bill now has to be either signed or vetoed by US President Donald Trump.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the sanctions bill.
It was not immediately clear how many USA diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave the country.
Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow to spy on the U.S.
Notably, the new legislation includes restrictive measures against Russian private individuals and separate economic sectors.
Moscow said it would cut the US diplomatic corps even further if the USA decides to expel more Russian diplomats.
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