Russian Foreign Ministry retaliates against strengthening of US sanctions

 Russian Foreign Ministry retaliates against strengthening of US sanctions

Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and other personnel in the country and ousted it from properties in Moscow, retaliating to the passage of a new sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress.

"The passage of the new law on sanctions shows with all obviousness that relations with Russia have become hostage to the domestic political battle within the U.S. The latest events show that in well-known circles in the United States, Russophobia and a course toward open confrontation with our country have taken hold," the ministry said in a statement.

"We suggest the American side should equal the number of diplomatic and technical staff working in the US Embassy to Moscow and the consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to the exact number of Russian diplomats and technical staff members working in the US before September 1," the Russian ministry said in a statement.

"The total number of the staff engaged in US diplomatic and consular establishments will be reduced to 455 people," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow has also suspended from August 1 use by the US embassy in Russia the warehouses in Dorozhnaya Street and the property in Serebryany Bor.  "As part of our reciprocal steps we reserve the right for other measures, which could have an impact on the interests of the United States," the statement added.

Late Thursday, the Senate voted 98-2 for a bill passed earlier by the House that strengthens existing sanctions on Russia and gives Congress the power to block President Donald Trump from lifting them. The White House has given mixed messages about whether Trump will sign the legislation at a time when his presidential campaign is under investigation over possible collusion with Moscow.