The employees of the US Embassy in Moscow were given enough time to leave the country on compassionate grounds, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters, raising parallels to the Russian diplomats’ ejection on New Year’s Eve.
“This is a regular practice,” Peskov said. “Demanding such massive downsizing within a term like the one that was given to our diplomats on New Year’s Eve would be inhuman and incorrect.” The Kremlin’s spokesman stressed that the provided term until September 1 does not mean there couldn’t be any dialogue in this regard. “No, it doesn’t mean [so],” Peskov said, answering a follow-up question.
The spokesman noted that the decision to expel 755 US Embassy members was taken “because the total number of the whole staff, including diplomats, non-diplomats and people hired on place is about 1,200 now and, as long as it was decided to synchronize the levels [of the number of employees in the diplomatic missions] and there are 450 of them [in Russia], this is just a mathematical calculation.” “The issue here concerns not only the diplomats but the staff as a whole,” he specified, adding that the American side would decide itself on whom to send back within the set terms.
“This is the choice of the US, these will be both diplomats and technical staff. We are not speaking only about diplomats, there are no that many (US) diplomats (in Russia), this refers to diplomats and persons having no diplomatic status, we well as people hired at the site – Russian nationals working there,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin refrains from forecasting whether reduction of US diplomatic staff in Russia could tell on visa issuance procedures, he went on. “We don’t know. I cannot say, you’d better ask the US embassy,” Peskov told journalists answering a corresponding question.
In reply to the question about conditions under which Moscow could take new retaliatory moves against the US, Peskov reiterated President Vladimir Putin’s words that Russia reserves “the right to respond with other measures,” which, however, he does not deem as necessary now, as “on the whole Russia is interested in continuing cooperation there where it meets its interests”.
In an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov on Sunday, Putin said Russia had demanded from the US to cut diplomatic staff in Russia almost three times (by 755 people). As for additional restrictions in response to Washington’s unfriendly policy, President Putin believes they are inexpedient at the moment, as this would harm international relations of Moscow itself.
Earlier in the week, the US Senate adopted by an overwhelming majority of 98 against 2 votes a bill toughening the US’ unilateral sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Previously, the bill won the majority of votes (419 against 3) in the House of Representatives. Now, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act has been referred to President Donald Trump. The White House says Trump will sign the document.