Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that over 755 US diplomats must leave the country as a result of Washington’s own policies.
“The American side has made a move which, it is important to note, hasn’t been provoked by anything, to worsen Russian-US relations. [It includes] unlawful restrictions, attempts to influence other states of the world, including our allies, who are interested in developing and keeping relations with Russia,” said Putin during an interview with the Rossiya 1 TV channel on Sunday.
Earlier in the week, after the US Congress approved new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, the Russian foreign ministry announced that Moscow had informed Washington that its diplomatic staff in Russia must be reduced to 455.
“We’ve been waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, we had hopes that the situation would change. But it looks like, it’s not going to change in the near future… I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered,” he added.
“From the perspective of a working diplomatic mission, [the measure] is fairly sensitive,” Putin said.
Russia, US still cooperating in other ‘important spheres’
Putin added that there are “important spheres of cooperation” between the US and Russia which he hoped would not be hurt by America’s anti-Russia policies.
He stressed that both countries had recently obtained “concrete” results in de-escalating the situation in Syria, which has been has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.
“We also work together on fighting illegal migration and organized crime in a broad sense. There are also issues of cybersecurity,” the Russia president added.
He added that the US and Russia battle illegal migration and organized crime and cooperate on cyber security.
“The main thing is, that we have a multi-faceted cooperation in many fields. Of course, Moscow has a lot to say and there is a number of spheres of cooperation that we could potentially cut and it would be sensitive for the US side. But I think we shouldn’t do it. It would harm development of international relations. I hope it won’t get to that point. As of today, I’m against it,” he noted.
US: Russia’s move to expel diplomats regrettable
Shortly after Putin’s announcement, Washington released a statement slamming Russia’s move to expel the diplomats, noting that it is weighing a suitable response.
“This is a regrettable and uncalled for act…We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it,” read the statement.