The Kremlin vowed Sunday to retaliate against the United States for approving new sanctions against Russia for its meddling in last year’s presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ABC News’ “This Week”
Russian President Vladimir Putin says 755 U.S. diplomats in the country must leave in retaliation for new sanctions Washington is imposing on Moscow for its meddling in the 2016 election to help President Donald Trump win the White House.
Putin told a Russian television network, “More than a thousand people were working and are still working” at the U.S. embassy and consulates, and “755 people must stop their activities in Russia.”
The Russian leader said Moscow could take additional retaliatory steps against the United States following overwhelming congressional approval of new sanctions against Russia, but said, “I am against it as of today.”
Moscow said the expulsion of hundreds of U.S. envoys by September 1 would leave both of the countries with the same number of diplomats in the two countries, 455.
Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ABC News’ This Week show, “I think this retaliation is long, long overdue.”
He said Moscow has “a very rich toolbox at our disposal. It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen. But I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things.”
The White House says Trump will sign the legislation imposing the new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Trump aides had objected to the measure because of inclusion of a provision that gives Congress 30 days to review and block any Trump effort to ease sanctions against Russia, including those imposed by former President Barack Obama for Russia’s interference in the election. But the lopsided congressional approval of the sanctions left Trump with the prospect that if he vetoed the legislation, Congress would likely have overridden it.
Ryabkov said the U.S. Senate’s 98-2 vote for the sanctions was “the last drop” on what he described as “a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation.”
Obama closed two Russian compounds in the United States and expelled 35 diplomats in late December, less than a month before leaving office. But Moscow did not retaliate in kind until last week, when it shut two U.S. facilities in Russia and ordered the American diplomats out of the country by September 1.
Political analysts in the United States had thought Trump, in an attempt to ease tensions with Putin, might overturn the Obama sanctions when he assumed power, but he did not.
Since then, the early months of Trump’s presidency have been consumed by numerous investigations of Russian meddling in the election, including whether Trump aides colluded with Moscow to help him win and whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director leading the agency’s Russia investigation. Subsequently, another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, was named to take over the criminal investigation.
Moscow has rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Putin personally directed Moscow’s interference in the election, while Trump has been dismissive of the investigations, describing them as a “witch hunt” and an excuse by Democrats to explain his upset win over the Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ryabkov told ABC, “If the U.S. side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate. But my whole point is don’t do this, it is to the detriment of the interests of the U.S.”
The Russian diplomat said, “I believe there are several areas where the U.S. and Russia can and should work together cooperatively. Nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countering terrorism, illicit immigration, trafficking in people, climate change, you name it.”
“We are ready, we are stretching our hand forward, we are hopeful that someone on the other side, President Trump included, but also others may see here a chance for a somewhat different way,” he added.