US diplomats to leave country after Washington's sanctions against Moscow, Russian president says

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said 755 U.S. diplomats would have to leave their positions in the country.

"Thousands of [U.S] employees - diplomats and technical workers - have worked and are still working in Russia. 755 will have to cease their activities in the Russian Federation," Putin said in an interview with Russian news website Vesti.ru, according to Russia's official TASS news agency.

Putin's remarks came after the U.S. Senate approved on Thursday new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill will next be sent to the desk of President Donald Trump, who has hinted he may veto it, but the bill passed with a veto-proof majority.

The measures were passed by a vote of 98-2 and include sanctions against Russian officials in retaliation for their alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Putin said the American side took "unprovoked" steps towards worsening bilateral relations, adding he believed that the U.S. attitude towards Russia would not change "soon".

He also said Moscow had no intentions of leaving the U.S actions "unanswered", and could also consider other options to take counter-measures. "But I hope that it will not come to this. I am against it today." 

The Russian president said Moscow and Washington had been cooperating in "very important" fields, including limitation of weapons of mass destruction and fight against terrorism.

He recalled that the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria was a "concrete" step of cooperation between the two countries in this regard. 

"Instead of starting to work constructively, we only hear groundless accusations of interference in the internal affairs of the U.S.," he added. 

Following the U.S. move, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Friday counter-measures against American sanctions bill on Moscow.

The measures included cutting the total number of personnel employed in U.S. diplomatic and consular offices in Russia to 455 people and suspending use of summer residence in Moscow.

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