Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the country was prepared to banish American diplomats if the United States (US) does not undo its decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats and block access to Russian diplomatic estates. CNN quoted the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, as saying that after US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin last week, Russia expected the US “to take a more constructive approach” to resolving the dispute. “The time is ticking,” Zakharova said. “We know how to respond.” In December, former US President Barack Obama ordered the removal of 35 Russians suspected of being spies after American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Adding to this, Obama administration announced that it would close two Russian waterfront compounds outside Washington and New York, describing them as spy nests, CNN reported.
At the time, Russian President Putin said that his would not respond in kind, suggesting that he expected a different relationship with Trump administration. Zakharova described Obama’s moves as a “provocation” intended at derailing Trump’s attempts to improve bilateral relations. “We gave time for the new administration to examine this disgusting legacy and begin to build the bilateral relationship on the basis of mutual respect,” Zakharova said. “Half a year has passed and we don’t see any concrete steps.” The US is now denying issuing visas to Russian diplomats waiting to replace those who were expelled, according to Zakharova.
Russia could expel more than 35 Americans, Zakharova said, making sure that the same number of diplomats works in the US Embassy in Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Washington.