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Russia is threatening to expel about 30 US diplomats and seize US state property in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions, local officials confirm.

The threat came from Russian foreign ministry sources, quoted by the daily Izvestia. Other Russian officials have made similar statements recently.

In December 2016, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two intelligence compounds.

The measures were a response to alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Russia was already under US sanctions.

Former President Barack Obama acted against Russia after US intelligence sources had accused Russian state agents of hacking into Democratic Party computers to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of the Obama sanctions with President Donald Trump when they met in Hamburg last week, Izvestia reported.

Meanwhile, the Trump team is under investigation over alleged Russian collusion during last year’s presidential campaign. Russia has strongly denied interfering in the election.

In addition to expelling 35 Russian diplomats from Washington and San Francisco, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on nine entities and individuals including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence agencies. The US closed Russian intelligence compounds in New York and Maryland.

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President Putin refrained from tit-for-tat retaliation – unlike in previous diplomatic spats.

Russia says President Donald Trump presented “no plan to resolve the crisis” when the issue was raised in Hamburg.

An unnamed Russian diplomat told Izvestia that in retaliation Russia could seize a US government dacha (country villa) at Serebryany Bor, to the northwest of Moscow, and a US warehouse in the city itself.


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However, the US ambassador’s Spaso House residence and the Anglo-American School in St Petersburg would not be affected.

Russia would carry out the threat if no compromise was reached at a St Petersburg meeting later this month between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Izvestia reported.

The US and its Western allies have also imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia because of Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

Russia blocked most imported Western food and drink in retaliation.

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Two US diplomats have been expelled from Moscow, after the White House said it had ordered two Russian embassy staff to leave Washington.

On July 8, the US State Department said their move came after a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

That US diplomat has now been expelled from Moscow, along with one other embassy worker.

The Kremlin accused the men of being CIA agents.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said both US embassy staff were expelled for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status”.

State department spokesman John Kirby said the two Russian officials, who have not been named, were told to leave on June 17.

John Kirby said that earlier that month, a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

“The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee,” he said.

“The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue.”

Russia said earlier this week that the US official was a CIA agent who had refused to provide his identification papers and hit the policeman in the face.

In June, US officials said harassment against US diplomats by Russian security and intelligence services was on the rise.

According to the Washington Post, that included breaking into the homes of embassy staff, rearranging furniture and even killing a family pet.

Russia has denied the allegation that security staff mistreated the US diplomat. It said the diplomat worked for the CIA and had refused to show ID papers.

Russian media have also released a footage showing what they say was the scuffle between the US diplomat and the Russian policeman.

In response to seeing its two diplomats ordered to leave Washington, the Kremlin announced its move on July 9.

“After their unfriendly step two employees of the United States embassy had to leave Moscow,” Sergei Ryabkov said.

“They were declared persona non grata for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.”

No official response has been made by Russia to the allegations of harassment of US diplomats. A statement to the Washington Post said there had been US provocation against Russian diplomats.