Russia ramps up retaliation against United States over new sanctions

Moscow, RUSSIA (CBS News) – Russia ramped up its retaliation against the United States over new sanctions passed by American lawmakers on Sunday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that U.S. diplomatic and consular positions must be reduced to 755 staff, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

All weekend, as the world waited, Putin didn’t utter a word on the topic. He was busy with the pomp of Russia’s Navy Day, both a celebration and a reminder to the international community that Russian muscle extends out over the oceans.

But finally, on Sunday evening, he weighed in, saying that the American diplomatic mission in Russia would have to lose 755 personnel.

“We waited for quite some time for something to change for the better,” Putin said, referring to relations with Washington. “But it became clear that it would not be soon.”

The U.S. State Department won’t reveal how many people it employs, Palmer reports, but the Russians say there are 1200 staff in Moscow and three other cities. Two-thirds of those jobs will have to be cut so the American diplomatic operation is trimmed to the same size as Russia’s mission in the United States. The U.S. will also lose access to a storage facility and its beautiful country house and leafy property on the outskirts of Moscow.

It’s the latest round in a tit-for-tat deterioration of relations between the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and the Kremlin, which began last Thursday when congress voted to extend sanctions against Russia. On Friday, the Russians hit back against what Deputy Foreign Minister Riabkov called a weird and unacceptable piece of legislation and hinted Russia might not be done with retaliation.

“We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal,” Riabkov said. “It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen.”

Though there’s no confirmation yet, Palmer reports, it appears that most of the jobs that will be lost as part of the reduction of U.S. consular and diplomatic staff based in Russia currently belong to local Russians working in everything from the American school to things like agriculture programs.

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