Russia Seizes U.S. Properties, Orders Diplomats Out, In Retaliation For U.S. Sanctions

The Senate voted to slap sanctions on Russia over the country’s role in meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Russia fired back today by ordering U.S. diplomats to leave. Russia is seizing some of the U.S. diplomatic property over the proposed sanctions and giving the diplomats just a month to vacate. Russia demands the same number of U.S. diplomats in Russia to equal the number of Russian diplomats in the U.S. today.

Vladimir Putin said yesterday that despite showing restraint so far, they won’t sit back and watch the U.S. engage in “boorish and unreasonable behavior” without retaliation. The Senate passed the proposed sanctions, but it now falls to Trump for putting the sanctions in place with his signature.

This puts the president in an uncomfortable position, as he only has two ways to go with this, and each is attached to an outcome that’s lined with hostility. Trump is forced to either take a hard line with the Russians or meet with anger from his own Republican Party by vetoing the sanctions, suggests CNBC.

The strained relationship with Russia is no secret, as CNBC reports that “it is already at a post-Cold War low.” The United States’ accusations of Russia attempting to meddle in the 2016 presidential election have been met with continuous denials from Moscow.

CNN confirms that Russia’s Foreign Ministry demanded the U.S. cut the number of their diplomatic staff in Russia, along with seizing properties used by U.S. diplomats in Russia. This is “in sharp response to the new sanctions bill” passed by Congress on Thursday.

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Russia has given the U.S. until September 1 to clear out the diplomatic staff from the property it seized. Moscow is allowing 455 of the U.S. staff to remain in Russia, which happens to be the same number of Russian diplomats remaining in the U.S. after 35 Russian diplomats were expelled by the Obama administration right before they exited the White House.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said today that the decision by Congress to seek new sanctions on Russia only confirms “the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs.”

They claim, “Under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their domestic affairs the United States is aggressively pushing forward, one after another, crude anti-Russian actions. This all runs counter to the principles of international law.”

While there’s no official word on the number of U.S. diplomats who are in Russia today, one official at Moscow’s U.S. Embassy spoke off the record. They convey that there are an estimated 1,100 of U.S. diplomats in that country. This number includes U.S. and Russian citizens working in those positions.

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The Russians are seizing two separate properties, with the first being a diplomatic warehouse in Moscow and the second a dacha compound in Moscow that is used by U.S. diplomats as a “country house,” according to CNN.

The seizing of property used by the Russian diplomats in the U.S. started with the out-going Obama administration. They seized two compounds in December in response to Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election. Two of the U.S. properties used by Russian diplomats were seized, one is located in Maryland and the other in New York City. This was done at the same time that they expelled Russian diplomats in December, right before Obama’s exit in January.

According to CNN, Moscow’s latest move comes just one day after the “US Senate passed sweeping legislations slapping new sanctions on Russia and limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to remove them.” When Sarah Huckabee was asked questions about these sanctions at a White House press conference, she would only say that Trump will review the sanctions bill.

The new White House press secretary gave no indication if Trump will sign the sanctions bill or veto it. Tying his hands a bit, the bill also contains sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and a lot of time went into getting these passed in both the House and Senate.

The reason Moscow acted now, instead of waiting to see what Trump will do with the sanctions bill, is that they feel the Senate is the important body when it comes to passing the bill. They said that “technically the form passed by the Senate is more important” and is “almost final.”

[Featured Image by Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]