Two American diplomatic properties have been seized by Russia on Friday and the United States Embassy in Moscow has been ordered to reduce its staff by September, in the first retaliatory steps of the Kremlin against newly proposed sanctions by the United States.
Russia had been threatening with these moves for weeks now and came a day after the United States Senate approved a measure expanding economic sanctions against North Korea, Iran and Russia. President Trump has yet to sign the bill which mirrored one passed by the House on Tuesday.
It remains unclear whether President Trump will sign the bill. President Trump is under considerable pressure not to veto the sanctions considering that the Republican Party has majorities in the House and Senate and given the congressional investigations into possible collusion between the Kremlin and his campaign.
The White House has been ambivalent about whether President Trump will give his approval since he pledged to improve ties with Russia during his campaign for the presidency.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow confirmed that it had received the notification from the Foreign Ministry of Russia and was sending it to Washington for review.
John F. Tefft, the American ambassador, expressed “his strong disappointment and protest” at the sanctions of the Russians, the statement said.
The U.S. Embassy was asked to reduce its technical and diplomatic staff to 455 in Russia by Sept. 1, matching the number of diplomats in the United States, the statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry read.
The United States maintains consulates in Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg in addition to the main embassy in Moscow.
The announcement of the Kremlin did not detail which employees were to be included in the count, which made it unclear at first how many American workers would have to leave.