Putin Derides 'Illegal' Sanctions Bill - But Says He's Waiting On Final Version

Russia's Foreign Ministry demanded Friday that the United States cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in Russian Federation and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties, in a sharp response to a new sanctions bill passed by the US Congress a day earlier.

The Trump administration had opposed the new financial penalties voted for by the senate.

The US Senate voted nearly unanimously on the new sanctions on Russian Federation, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation.

The statement comes after Moscow's decision to reduce the number of USA diplomatic staff in Russian Federation and suspend the use of American embassy storage facilities.

The ministry also said that it would bar access to a summer house and storage facilities in Moscow that have been used by the U.S. embassy from August 1.

Moscow had complained that the "new sanctions bill showed with all clarity that relations with Russian Federation have now fallen hostage to the domestic political struggle in the US". In his meeting this month with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations summit in Germany, Trump said he repeatedly addressed the topic of Russia's meddling in the US election.

In late 2016, the Obama administration slapped a new batch of sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian diplomats on the pretext of Moscow's alleged meddling in the USA presidential election.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin approved the ministry statement as a response to the U.S."Of course, such measures are impossible without authorization by the president", Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS.

On Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers reached an agreement that cleared the way for the Senate to pass the measure as soon as this week.

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The White House has received a bill that would ramp up sanctions against Russian Federation, which President Donald Trump must now sign into law or veto.

Russia's ambitions to be on equal footing with the USA suffered a setback in 2014 when the Obama administration authorized sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy, including financial services, energy, mining and defense. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the US leader, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would retaliate again if the United States made a decision to expel any Russian diplomats, Reuters reported.

During his campaign, Mr Trump vowed to pursue better ties with Russian Federation and professed admiration for its strongman President Vladimir Putin.

Russia will give a "mirror response" should the United States introduce new unilateral measures to cut the numbers of Russian diplomats in the country.

The two men met for the first time at a G20 summit in Germany this month in what both sides described as a productive encounter, but Russian officials have become increasingly convinced that Congress and Trump's political opponents will not allow him to mend ties, even if he wants to.

The ministry warned it would respond in kind if Washington chose to expel any more Russian diplomats.

An official in the White House wouldn't say whether Trump would sign it, saying only that they are reviewing the bill and that the administration supports sanctions against the three countries.

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