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Russia imposes sanctions on U.S. diplomats after waiting six months in vain for better relations with Trump

Moscow has given the United States until September 1 to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people — the same number of people currently working at Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the U.S., according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Effective August 1, the Russian government will also suspend the U.S. embassy’s access to all storage space at Dorognaya Street in Moscow and a summer home in Serebryany Bor.

It’s not yet clear exactly how many Americans will be forced to leave Russia because of the sanctions.

Moscow says its decision was prompted by new sanctions against Russia adopted this week by the U.S. legislature, which “once again confirm the extreme aggressiveness of the United States in international affairs,” the Foreign Ministry argues. Russian officials say the new sanctions aim to “limit foreign partners’ engagement with Russia” and create “unfair competitive advantages for the U.S. in the global economy.”

Despite Washington’s constant attacks, we have conducted and will continue to conduct ourselves responsibly and with restraint. Until now, we have not responded to these blatant provocations. Recent events, however, show that Russophobia and a push for open conflict with our country have taken hold in certain circles in the United States.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On December 29, 2016, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats, accusing them of playing a role in Russia’s supposed meddling. Two embassy properties were also closed down and seized by American officials.

Immediately following the Obama administration's decision, Russia’s Foreign Ministry advised the Kremlin to reciprocate by expelling as many diplomats and cutting off American access to storage facilities and the U.S. embassy’s Moscow summer home. Vladimir Putin refused to do this, however, saying Russia hoped to build better relations with the Trump White House.

In mid-July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova complained that U.S. officials aren’t issuing visas to the Russian diplomats sent to replace those expelled. “Washington not only hasn’t canceled its decision to expel our staff, but it’s also refusing to grant visas to those who are supposed to go replace them,” Zakharova told reporters, threatening to take retaliatory measures, if the issue wasn't resolved soon.

On July 27, the newspaper Kommersant reported that Russian officials were again considering several asymmetrical responses to the latest U.S. sanctions. In addition to the expulsion of diplomats, the newspaper said, Russia might obstruct future U.S. efforts in the UN Security Council, particularly concerning North Korea; seize the assets and investments of U.S. companies in Russia; cut enriched uranium exports to American nuclear power plants and titanium shipments to U.S. companies like Boeing; and place new restrictions on American juggernauts like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Google, Facebook, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and major pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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