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Putin says Moscow could further reduce U.S. diplomatic presence in Russia

05 September 2017 [16:51] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

By Ali Mustafayev

The diplomatic duel between Russia and the U.S. further escalates eliminating any hope for rapprochement between Moscow and Washington.  

President Vladimir Putin announced on September 5 that Moscow might require the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia by another 155 people, in light of the fact that as many Russian diplomatic staff in the U.S. work exclusively in Russia’s UN mission.

Putin said the U.S. had miscalculated with its latest closure order by including staff working in Russia’s mission to the United Nations as part of its U.S. staff. Thus, Putin said, the latest U.S. order had left Russia with fewer U.S.-based diplomatic staff than the 455 working for the State Department in Russia.

“We reserve the right to take a decision on the number of U.S. diplomats in Moscow. But we won’t do that for now. Let’s wait and see how the situation develops further,” he said.

The U.S. officials ordered to close Russian consulate general in San Francisco and two trade missions — one in Washington, D.C., and another in New York City. The new restrictions have left Moscow with three consulates in the United States, including in New York, Houston, and Seattle.

The searches were conducted with participation of Russian diplomats after a strong insistence of the latter. Representatives of Russian diplomatic mission in the USA stated that this act is equal to a hostile takeover and that it violates the International Conventions.

Putin also told reporters that he has instructed Russia’s Foreign Ministry to mount a legal challenge to Washington’s decision to ban the country from using some of its consular and trade annexes in America, stressing that it violates Russia’s property rights.

“As for our buildings and facilities, this is an unprecedented thing,” Putin said. “This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. Therefore, for a start, I will order the Foreign Ministry to go to court - and let’s see just how efficient the much-praised U.S. judiciary is.”

President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, saying he wanted to improve ties with Russia. Putin also spoke favorably of Trump.

However, the ties have been damaged by accusations from U.S. intelligence officials that Russia interfered in the presidential election. Moscow has denied the accusations.

The U.S. order for Russia to vacate some of its diplomatic properties was the latest in a series of actions that began when former U.S. president Barack Obama, expelled 35 Russian diplomats in late 2016. Two embassy properties were also closed down and seized by American officials.

In late July 2017, following another round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, Moscow ordered the U.S. to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people.

In response, the U.S. embassy in Moscow announced that non-immigrant visas will no longer be issued in the three U.S. consulates across the country, beginning on August 23. As of September 1, the only place Russians can interview for U.S. visas is at the embassy in Moscow.


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