In what is thought to be the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country in modern history, President Vladimir Putin has ordered hundreds of American staff to leave US diplomatic missions in Russia.
Although the decision was made on Friday in retaliation for new US sanctions against Moscow, Putin has now confirmed that the 755 diplomats must go by September 1.
Staff at the embassy in Moscow as well as those at the consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg are affected by Putin’s order, and the exodus will bring the diplomatic workforce to 455 – the same as Russia’s complement in Washington.
The Russian government is also seizing holiday properties and a warehouse used by US diplomats, and Putin may yet consider more measures, although the leader said: “I am against it as of today.”
The US said the move was a “regrettable and uncalled for act”.
“We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it,” a state department official said.
Putin told Russian television: “We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better.
“But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it’s not for anytime soon.”