Russia considering ‘specific’ response after US expelled 35 diplomats
The Kremlin at the time refrained from tit-for-tat expulsions but Russian newspaper Izvestia said that Moscow may be expelling 30 US diplomats.world Updated: Jul 11, 2017 21:37 IST
Russia is considering retaliatory measures after the United States expelled 35 of its diplomats in December, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday, without disclosing details.
“We are thinking about specific steps, and I don’t believe that this should be discussed publicly,” Lavrov told journalists in a televised briefing.
He blamed the “outrageous” move on the administration of former president Barack Obama which “wanted to poison Russian-American relations to the maximum and do everything to put the Trump administration in a trap”.
Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA-Novosti news agency that “there were several variants of a response and a harsh reaction is prepared”.
The expelled diplomats were based in Washington and San Francisco.
The Kremlin at the time refrained from tit-for-tat expulsions but Russian newspaper Izvestia said Monday citing sources that Moscow may be expelling 30 US diplomats and seize some US property in the country.
Obama announced the expulsions and the closure of two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to purported hacking attacks dubbed “Grizzly Steppe” by US officials. He gave diplomats and their families 72 hours to leave.
President Vladimir Putin at the time ruled out kicking out US diplomats, a move that was interpreted as Moscow’s hope to build ties with the Trump administration.
The Russian strongman even invited US diplomats’ families to a party in the Kremlin.
However Moscow is keen to regain its properties in the US and the subject was on the agenda of Putin’s first face-to-face meeting with Trump in Hamburg, according to the Kremlin.
Ryabkov reiterated Monday that “diplomatic property should be returned to us,” RIA-Novosti reported.
Trump said he had pressed Putin over alleged meddling in the US election that catapulted him to power but the Russian leader “vehemently denied it”.
The US Senate last month approved additional tough sanctions on Russia aimed at punishing Moscow for the alleged election interference.
Lavrov warned that these threatened “the whole relationship” between Russia and the United States.
The sanctions led Moscow to cancel a meeting in June between US Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon with Russia’s Ryabkov. The two are to meet next week, according to reports.