Donald Trump to sign Russian Federation sanctions, Moscow retaliates

Russia Sanctions Bill Heads to Trump Moscow Retaliates

AP File

"The passage of the new law on sanctions shows with all obviousness that relations with Russian Federation have become hostage to the domestic political battle within the USA", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the moves.

US President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation slapping punitive sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea that the Congress approved this week, the White House has said.

But the president only did so after negotiating "critical elements" of the bill, the spokeswoman added, without specifying what those elements were.

The sanctions were drawn up in part to punish Russian Federation further over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

It has also upset some European nations fearful that it could hit their businesses.

"We are behaving in a very restrained and patient way, but at some moment we will need to respond", Putin said at a news conference after talks with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied meddling in the election, said Moscow would only decide on how to retaliate once it had seen the final text of the proposed law.

Moscow ordered the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 diplomats and staff, matching the number of Russian diplomats in the United States after then President Barack Obama expelled 35 in early January.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, in response, it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russia to reduce the number of its diplomats by September 1.

"The United States under the absolutely invented pretext of Russian interference in their internal affairs takes one grossly anti-Russian action after another", it said. Moreover, the ministry said that it reserves the reciprocal right to hit U.S. interests in response to the USA sanctions bill.

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In particular, it prohibits "any ships owned by the government of North Korea or owned or operated on behalf of any country not complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions from operating in United States waters or landing at any USA port".

It was not immediately clear how many United States diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave either the country or their posts, but the Interfax news agency cited an informed source as saying "hundreds" of people would be affected.

"However, this is possible only on the basis of equality, mutual respect and a balancing of interests", the ministry statement added. "Ambassador Tefft expressed his strong disappointment and protest".

The punishment announced by Moscow closely resembled punitive measures announced by then President Barack Obama in December.

He even refused to retaliate after former President Barack Obama slapped sanctions on Russia last December 2016 over unproven allegations that the Russian president personally directed covert cyber attacks against the US electoral system, resulting in Hillary Clinton's shocking defeat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered using cyber warfare methods, has threatened retaliation against the legislation.

Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations that Russian cyber interference in the election was meant to boost Trump's chances, something Moscow flatly denies. But Trump has not done so, and the sanctions he now plans to sign into law will now make that almost impossible given sharp anti-Kremlin sentiments in Congress.

But allegations from the USA intelligence community that Putin interfered in the USA elections to get Trump elected have made any concessions to Trump politically toxic.

Confronted by a united Congress and suspicions about his intentions towards the Russian leader, Trump had little choice but to sign the measure, whose passage the White House had opposed.

Any veto attempt would have created a political firestorm for Trump given the ongoing investigations into whether members of his campaign colluded with the Russian government during the presidential campaign.

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