Russia ordered the U.S. Friday to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country to 455 and seized two American diplomatic properties, in retaliation for similar steps ordered by the Obama administration last December and a sweeping sanctions bill approved this week by the U.S. Congress.
“The Russian side is suspending as of August 1 the use by the U.S. embassy in Russia of all warehouses on the Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the dacha compound in Serebryanyy Bor,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The action also requires the U.S. to reduces its diplomatic staff to 455 by September 1—the same number of diplomats Russia maintains in the U.S.
The Russian move comes a day after the U.S. Senate passed 98-2 a sweeping sanctions bill that would tighten restrictions on a range of Russian businesses and interests, setting up a clash with President Trump, who must now decide whether to sign or veto it. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar measure earlier this week also by a wide margin, 419-3. As it stands now, Congress has more than enough votes to override a presidential veto.
The measure, which also tightens sanctions against North Korea and Iran, is especially controversial because not only does it tighten sanctions against Russia for its election interference and invasion of Crimea, but it mandates that the president consult with it before waiving the punitive measures against Russia; at present the president can waive sanctions determined to be detrimental to U.S. interests.