Russia expels U.S. diplomats in response to Washington sanctions

Russia expels U.S. diplomats in response to Washington sanctions


Russia said on Friday it planned to expel 35 U.S. diplomats and ban U.S. diplomatic staff from using two facilities in Moscow in retaliation for expulsions and sanctions imposed by Washington.

The Foreign Ministry announcement followed U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to expel 35 Russian dipomats suspected of spying and to impose sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had proposed the measures to President Vladimir Putin. The allegations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections were baseless, he said.

Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev said the Obama administration was ending its term in "anti-Russia death throes".

"It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP," Medvedev, who served as Russian president in 2009 when Obama tried to improve Russia-U.S. relations, wrote on his official Facebook page.

Maria Olson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said the mission had not yet received any official documents from the Russian Foreign Ministry on the retaliatory expulsions, saying she had learned learn the news from the media.

Olson declined to comment further, including on how many people work in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The Kremlin also banned U.S. diplomatic staff from using a dacha in Moscow's prestigious waterfront park area, Serebryany Bor, and a warehouse in an industrial southern area of the city.

The U.S. sanctions also closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for "intelligence-related purposes."

A former Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by Russian diplomatic staff and their children.

Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Donald Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House in January.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration "a group of embittered and dim-witted foreign policy losers".

The Foreign Ministry denied media reports that authorities had ordered the closure of the Anglo-American School in Moscow, which serves children of U.S. Embassy personnel, as part of the reprisals against Washington.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Maria Tsvetkova, writing by Peter Hobson, editing by Katya Golubkova and Angus MacSwan)