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Russia reserves right to expel further US diplomats: Putin

MOSCOW:Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow reserves the right to further cut the number of American diplomats in his country after Washington targeted three more Russian facilities on US soil.

“We reserve the right to take a decision on the number of US diplomats in Moscow. But we won’t do that for now. Let’s wait and see how the situation develops further,” Putin said at a press conference after a BRICs summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen on Tuesday.

Washington seized control over three Russian diplomatic posts in the US on Saturday amid strong protests by Moscow.

The US move to shut down Russia’s consulate post in San Francisco along with two trade posts in Washington and New York came in retaliation for Moscow’s last month decision to significantly reduce American diplomatic staff in Russia.

Putin further described as “boorish” and “unprecedented” Washington’s actions towards Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the US, saying he would order the Foreign Ministry to sue the US authorities over “violation of Russia’s property rights.”

“This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. Therefore, for a start, I will order the Foreign Ministry to go to court – and let’s see just how efficient the much-praised US judiciary is,” he added.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described the latest Washington measures against Moscow’s facilities as “state hooliganism.”

The diplomatic standoff between the two sides first broke out last December, when the outgoing Washington administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for yet unsubstantiated Russian interference in the US electoral process.

Moscow did not respond in kind back then, reportedly for having received signals that the incoming administration of President Donald Trump would be more favorable towards Russia.

While Trump himself has been perceived as open toward warmer relations with Russia, the US Congress slapped more bans on Russia over the alleged election interference, prompting Moscow to order a 60-percent cut in the number of US diplomatic staff last month.

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