Russia Orders Some US Diplomatic Staff to Leave, Expands Embassy Spat

Photo credit: TASS

The US embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years must fly home by January 31, Kremlin ordered on Wednesday a retaliatory move for Washington’s decision to limit the terms of Russian diplomats.

Explaining the move, which is the latest step in the escalating diplomatic row, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said they intend to respond in a corresponding way to the fact that the US is literally expelling 27 Russian diplomats and their families by forcing them to leave the United States on January 30

The new US rules, according to Zakharova, also means that Russian diplomats who had been forced to leave the US are also banned from working as diplomats there for three years

Moscow regards the departure of Russian diplomats from the United States as an act of expulsion, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

Commenting on the US decision, she stressed that the United States has no authority to dictate the terms of departure and suspension of missions for Russian diplomats that Moscow has sent on mission based on the staff policy of its ministry and the diplomatic service

Unless Washington compromises and waives the three-year rule, more US workers in Russia will leave before July 1 next year in numbers corresponding with the number of Russians announced by the State Department.

No immediate comment was available from the US embassy in Moscow, whose operation will face further pressure due to reductions in the embassy staff which is already on the level, as Washington has already described, close to a “caretaker presence”.

The embassy in Moscow, which has shrunk to 120 staff from about 1,200, is the last operational US mission in Russia after Washington closed the consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg were closed in early 2017.

Russian Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov reminded Washington that it still has time to change its decision to force out Russian diplomats and stop Moscow from following through on the new expulsions considering that Washington has set two cut-off dates – late January and the end of June.

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