Russian diplomat says reduction of US diplomatic staff underway

The US diplomatic mission in Russia has been implementing Moscow’s instructions concerning the reduction of its staff, told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

“As far as I know, the process is underway,” he said. “They have been abiding by our instructions, but I cannot comment on the number [of diplomats],” Ryabkov added.

Following the US Congress’s vote to impose new sanctions on Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested that by September 1, Washington reduce the number of diplomatic and technical stuff at the US embassy in Moscow, as well as at the consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, in order to match the number of Russian staff working in the United States.

It means that the total number of staff working in the US diplomatic offices in Russia will decrease by one-third to 455. In case the US takes new unilateral steps to cut Russian diplomatic staff, retaliatory measures will follow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Rossiya 1 TV channel host Vladimir Solovyov that “out of more than a thousand of the employees, diplomats and technical staff, who have been and still are working in Russia, 755 will have to finish their work in Russia.”

In a July 28 telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Moscow’s decision to equal the number of the US and Russia diplomatic personnel was triggered by a series of Washington’s hostile steps.

On August 23, US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft said in an interview with TASS that the mission planned to reduce the number of personnel to 455. “We have already had a number of Americans packing their bags who will be leaving to go back to the United States,” the ambassador added.