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Vladimir Putin

Putin insists Russia could expel dozens more US diplomatic personnel as rift deepens

Russia was forced to vacate its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic buildings in New York and Washington after the US ordered the move

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 5:01pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened on Tuesday to expel up to 155 more US diplomatic personnel from his country as the diplomatic feud between Washington and Moscow rumbled on.

“We reserve the right to make a decision on how many American diplomats there are in Moscow. But we will not do that for the moment,” Putin told a press conference after a summit of BRICS nations in southern China.

Moscow had previously ordered the US to reduce its diplomatic presence to 455 people by September 1, the same number that Russia has in the US.

That number, however, includes 155 people who work for Russia’s diplomatic mission to the UN in New York, Putin said, meaning his country could further cut the number of US diplomats to 300: “It’s 455 minus 155.”

On Saturday, Russia was forced to vacate its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic buildings in New York and Washington after the US ordered the move, the latest twist in a lengthy feud.

Russia demanded Sunday that the US rethink its shuttering of Moscow’s diplomatic premises, insisting that Washington bore sole responsibility for worsening ties after the “hostile act”.

However, Putin refrained from making any criticism of US President Donald Trump and dismissed a question about whether he was disappointed in Trump as “naive”.

In comments carried by Russian news agencies, Putin said Trump is “not my bride, and I’m not his groom”.

Asked how Russia would feel if Trump were impeached, Putin said it would be “absolutely wrong” for Russia to discuss domestic US politics.

Russian officials cheered Trump when he was elected last year, and Putin praised him as someone who wanted to improve ties with Russia. However, further US sanctions on Russia and the US decision to close a Russian consulate have raised concerns that the two countries remain far apart.