US: Russia's decision to expel American diplomats is 'uncalled for'

MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (dpa) - The US State Department on Sunday labelled an announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin to expel American diplomats from Russia as "regrettable and uncalled for," local media has reported.
President Vladimir Putin announced earlier Sunday that 755 United States diplomats must leave Russia, according to state news agency TASS, in retaliation for new sanctions passed by the US Congress.

"We have been waiting for quite a long time for positive changes [in Washington's attitude to Moscow], we hoped that the situation will change," Putin reportedly said in an interview with state broadcaster VGTRK.
"I thought we must demonstrate that we are not going to leave anything unanswered either," he said, according to the interview, quoted by TASS.
Putin said Russia could impose additional measures against the US, but added that "I am against it, as of today."
A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Washington Post, said the move was "a regrettable and uncalled for act."
"The Russian government has demanded the US Mission to Russia limit total Mission staffing to 455 employees by September 1," the official said, according to the Post.
"We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it," the official said.
On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened to expel US diplomats and said it was ending US access to a diplomatic estate in the Moscow region.
For weeks Moscow had warned that if Washington did not reinstate Russia's access to two diplomatic properties closed off last year in the US, it would undertake a reciprocal measure.
Putin's Sunday announcement came as US Vice President Mike Pence kicked off a three-day tour of Eastern Europe by meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas in Tallinn.
Pence said the United States was committed to NATO and a common defence in Eastern Europe.
A US bill to impose new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea received overwhelming support in Congress and was being sent to President Donald Trump for final approval.
The White House said late Friday that Trump intends to sign it, despite aides previously indicating he could veto it.
The proposed sanctions were put forward as punishment for alleged Russian cyberattacks designed to influence last year's US presidential election in favour of Trump, who expressed intentions to rebuild US-Russian relations.
The legislation has stipulations that would prevent the president from unilaterally softening or repealing the measures at a later time.

Monday, July 31st 2017
dpa correspondents

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