|Photo by: kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons|
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to expel 755 US diplomatic and consular officials stationed in Moscow.
The expulsion is an aggressive response to the legislation overwhelmingly passed by the US Congress that seeks to reinforce sanctions against Russia and restrict President’s Trump powers to lift those sanctions. The legislative measure was brought about by the allegations of Russia’s undue interference with the recent US presidential elections as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Aside from Russia, Iran and North Korea are also included in the sanctions proposal.
The Russian foreign ministry earlier ordered the US Embassy to reduce its diplomatic and consular officials in Russia to 455 by September of this year. This is the same number of diplomatic and consular officials present in Washington.
Putin said in an interview that around 755 US diplomatic and consular mission officials and employees will leave Moscow by September 1. He added that improvements in the relations between the United States and Russia could not be expected anytime soon.
"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better. But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon," Putin said.
In December, former US president Barack Obama employed the same maneuver by ordering the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, as well as the closure of two embassy summer houses. This order was issued following the allegations that these embassy offices were being utilized by Moscow for espionage and other activities in furtherance of the alleged Russian meddling with the US elections.