Russia mulls further reduction of U.S. diplomat numbers
Philadelphia Herald - Tuesday 12th September, 2017
Russia considering demanding that the U.S. diplomatic mission reduce its staff further
The decision has not been made official so far
Russia is planning on reducing 155 more U.S. diplomats
MOSCOW, Russia - Extending the diplomatic war further, Russia claimed on Monday that it had earlier been too generous and is now preparing a number of measures to retaliate against America’s decision to close Russia’s consular properties in the U.S.
In a statement on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the country was considering demanding that the U.S. diplomatic mission reduce its staff by an additional 155 employees.
Lavrov pointed out that the decision had not been made official so far, but that the idea was under serious consideration.
The minister further pointed out that the U.S. had initiated the parity criterion, saying that Washington had insisted that Russia close one of its four consulates in the United States because the U.S. only had three consulates in Russia.
Addressing a news conference on Monday, Lavrov said, "If they have taken parity as a criterion … we will bring these conditions into full compliance with what is called parity.”
The diplomatic tit-for-tat, that has been ongoing since January this year, began after former President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence officers.
Obama even closed Russian recreational compounds in New York and Maryland, and imposed sanctions on Russian people and businesses - in retaliation for Kremlin meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin withheld from retaliating, and the incoming Trump administration and Trump in specific had vowed to ease relationship with Russia.
However, despite vowing to smoothen ties between the two nations, in August, Trump grudgingly signed stepped-up sanctions on Russia into law, after Congress pushed to prevent him from easing up on Moscow.
In response, Kremlin retaliated by ordering the U.S. to cut embassy and consulate staff down to 455 personnel.
In its order, Russia said that a total of 755 personnel would have to leave the country to reach the new limit.
U.S. officials later confirmed that they had complied with the order to reduce staff to 455.
Two diplomatic compounds used by the U.S. Embassy staff were also taken back by the Russians, including a storage warehouse in Moscow and a summer cottage compound in the northern part of the capital.
Last Saturday, Washington demanded that Russia close the San Francisco Consulate.
Lavrov said on Monday that Russia was also considering placing some travel restrictions on U.S. diplomatic staff working in Russia.
Currently, American diplomats may officially enter Russia at more entry points than Russians are allowed to enter the U.S.
Russia is said to be mulling limiting the number of American staffers allowed to travel outside the diplomatic missions' zones.
Lavrov said that currently all U.S. diplomatic staff are allowed to travel freely within Russia, a privilege that is now under consideration.
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