Russia ‘ready to expel 30 US diplomats’ in sanctions row
Russia is ready to expel about 30 US diplomats and seize US state property in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions, Russian officials say.
The threat came from Russian foreign ministry sources, quoted by the daily Izvestia. Other Russian officials have made similar statements recently.
In December the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two intelligence compounds.
The measures were a response to alleged Russian meddling in the US election.
Russia was already under US sanctions.
Ex-President Barack Obama acted against Russia after US intelligence sources had accused Russian state agents of hacking into Democratic Party computers to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of the Obama sanctions with US President Donald Trump when they met in Hamburg on 7 July, Izvestia reported.
The Trump team is under investigation over alleged Russian collusion during last year’s presidential campaign. The Kremlin has denied interfering in the election.
Steve Rosenberg, BBC Moscow correspondent
If Donald Trump has ever read Joseph Heller’s famous satirical novel, he’ll recognise the situation as Catch-22.
If President Trump hands back the Russian diplomatic compounds seized by President Obama last year, he will cement his image of Kremlin stooge in the eyes of his opponents. At this point any concessions to Russia would be highly controversial, in light of current investigations in America into alleged links between Mr Trump’s team and Moscow.
But if the Russian compounds are not returned, Moscow may well expel a number of US diplomats and seize some US diplomatic buildings. That could complicate what Mr Trump says he wants to achieve: better relations with Russia.
This is not the first time that reports have emerged of Russia planning counter-measures. The latest threat – via a foreign ministry source in a pro-Kremlin newspaper – may be designed to increase the pressure on Washington, ahead of US-Russia talks on the issue.
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In addition to expelling 35 Russian diplomats from Washington and San Francisco, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on nine entities and individuals including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence agencies. The US closed Russian intelligence compounds in New York and Maryland.
Mr Putin refrained from tit-for-tat retaliation – unlike in previous diplomatic spats.
Russia says President Trump presented “no plan to resolve the crisis” when the issue was raised in Hamburg.
An unnamed Russian diplomat told Izvestia that in retaliation Russia could seize a US government dacha (country villa) at Serebryany Bor, to the northwest of Moscow, and a US warehouse in the city itself.
However, the US ambassador’s Spaso House residence and the Anglo-American School in St Petersburg would not be affected.
Russia would carry out the threat if no compromise was reached at a St Petersburg meeting later this month between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Izvestia reported.
The US and its Western allies have also imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia because of Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict. Russia blocked most imported Western food and drink in retaliation.