Sanctions: Putin expels hundreds of U.S. diplomats


Moscow has ordered the Trump administration to recall hundreds of its diplomats after U.S. senators voted 98-2 to impose heavier financial sanctions on Russia. Of note is the fact that the legislation prevents Mr. Trump from lifting these sanctions without consulting with Congress first.

The Kremlin had earlier announced that it would not take any retaliatory actions unless President Trump signed the bill but it issued a statement first thing on Friday morning.

“The passage of the new law on sanctions shows with all obviousness that relations with Russia have become hostage to the domestic political battle within the U.S. 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,” the Foreign Ministry statement read.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that Vladimir Putin had not waited for the bill to be signed as “the form in which it emerged from the Senate had greater significance” because it was “almost final.”

The White House has offered mixed message about whether the president would affix his signature to the bill. Should he decide to do so, the legislation would curb his power to lift the sanctions on his own. Should he refuse, the president is fully aware that his veto could easily be overridden by Congress. In addition, refusing to sign the bill would give the impression that he is trying to protect Russia and would no doubt provide the leftists with further ‘evidence’ that the Trump administration has been colluding with the Russians all along.

Last December, Moscow put on hold its plans to expel American diplomats after the Obama administration instructed 35 Russian envoys to leave the U.S. and seized two embassy compounds following allegations that Moscow had interfered in the November 8 presidential election. This was seen as a good-will gesture to the Trump administration.

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Washington that it had until September 1 to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff to 455 (there are currently 455 Russian personnel in the U.S.). Although a precise figure was not immediately available, hundreds of staff could be affected.

“We are talking not about dozens, but hundreds of diplomatic and technical staff who work for US diplomatic missions in Russia,” the Interfax news agency reported.

The Ministry also warned Washington that it would not hesitate to take additional steps should the Trump administration decide to retaliate.