WORLD

Moscow announces counter-measures against US sanctions bill

MOSCOW ANNOUNCES COUNTER-MEASURES AGAINST US SANCTIONS BILL

Russia's foreign ministry on Friday announced counter measures in response to tough new sanctions proposed by the United States, ordering Washington to reduce its diplomatic staff.

Moscow announced on Friday counter-measures against a U.S. sanctions bill on Russia, the Foreign Ministry said.

A ministry statement sets a Sept. 1 deadline to "bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, the consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, into strict correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff currently working in the United States, by Sept. 1, 2017."

Russia's move came a day after the U.S. Senate approved new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill next will be sent to the desk of President Donald Trump, who has hinted he may veto it, but the bill passed with a veto-proof majority.

The measures were passed by a vote of 98-2 and include sanctions against Russian officials in retaliation for their alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The ministry said the total number of personnel employed in U.S. diplomatic and consular offices in Russia will be reduced to 455 people.

It also suspended as of Aug. 1 the U.S. use of a summer residence in Moscow's Serebryany Bor and storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street.

"Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting U.S. interests on a retaliatory basis," it added.

'ILLEGAL' SANCTIONS
It said Russia has done its "utmost" to normalize bilateral relations and develop cooperation with the U.S. on the important issues.

"The new bill uses political means to create a dishonest competitive advantage for the US in the global economy. This blackmail aimed at restricting Russia's cooperation with its foreign partners threatens many countries and international businesses," it added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin approved the ministry statement as a response to the U.S., according to Russia's official TASS news agency.

"Of course, such measures are impossible without authorization by the president," Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS.

Peskov also said Putin has not yet signed a decree on appointing Russia's new ambassador to the U.S., following the departure of Sergey Kislyak.

Putin on Thursday called the proposed U.S. sanctions "absolutely illegal" under international law, adding that they violate the principles of international trade.

"As you know, we are being very restrained and patient, but at some point we will have to respond. We cannot tolerate this loutish behavior towards our country forever," he told a news conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto, according to the Kremlin.

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