US diplomats who have been working in Moscow for more than three years have to leave the country by Jan. 31, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday.
The step is the next move in an ongoing diplomatic row between Russia and the US, a row started by Washington, ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow.
For some time the US has been creating difficulties for Russian diplomats assigned to the US by denying them visas and setting limitations on their movements inside the US, she said.
Russia sees the expulsion as tit-for-tat for the US forcing 27 Russian diplomatic staffers to leave the country by the end of January, she said.
"We consider the American demand as nothing but expulsion and intend to respond accordingly. By Jan. 31, 2022, employees of the US Embassy in Moscow who have been on a mission for more than three years must leave Russia," she said.
Moscow has been putting off the move for a long time in the hope Washington will reconsider its decision, she added.
"I stress that this choice is not ours. The American partners imposed this game on us,” she said.
“We have persistently tried to reason with them for a long time and to redirect them to some constructive solution to the issue, but they've made their choice.”
Russia has called the US actions "an undisguised encroachment on the sovereign right of a state that sends its representatives, diplomats and determines the terms of its stay in the host country itself … according to the laws and rules written by the host party," she stressed.
Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov last week said that 27 Russian diplomats would be forced to leave the US by Jan. 30 due to visa problems with their families, and 30 more by the end of next June.
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