Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the expulsion of 775 US diplomats in retaliation for a new US sanctions bill.
Putin announced the move on Sunday, effectively cutting the US diplomatic mission of roughly 1,200 in Russia by more than half.
The order from Moscow, reported by AFP, comes in response to a sanctions bill that passed the US Congress on Thursday, and which US President Donald Trump has said he will sign into law.
Earlier on Sunday, a top Russian diplomat lambasted the United States Congress for voting to sanction Russia, and warned of retaliation by Moscow.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that a bill passed by Congress on Thursday to sanction his country was ‘weird and unacceptable’.
He said if Donald Trump signed it when it reaches his desk, it will be ‘the last straw.’
‘If the US side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer. We will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate,’ Ryabkov said.
The diplomat added that his ‘whole point is don’t do this. It’s to the detriment of the interests of the US.’
Ryabkov’s comments came after Moscow ordered the United States on Friday to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties.
Those moves were a response to the new sanctions that were approved nearly unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Ryabkov confirmed that the seizing of the properties was in response to the bill, but declined to say what other measures Russia is willing to take if the United States continues to apply pressure.
‘We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal,’ he said.
‘It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen. We are not gamblers. We are people who consider things very seriously and very responsibly,’ said Ryabkov.
‘But I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things.’