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Putin Says 755 U.S. Diplomats Must Leave Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says 755 U.S. diplomats must leave Russia in comments that have come after Moscow directed Washington to reduce the size of its diplomatic staff in the country in an escalating row over sanctions.

Speaking in an interview with Russian state television broadcast on July 30, Putin said that "more than a thousand people were working and are still working" at the U.S. embassy and consulates in Russia, and that "755 people must stop their activities in Russia."

Moscow ordered the reduction in U.S. diplomatic staff after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill that would impose additional sanctions on Russia and sent it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions legislation confirmed what it called the "extreme aggression" of the United States in international affairs.

Putin's announcement came two days after the White House said Trump would sign the bill, which would require him to seek congressional approval in order to ease sanctions against Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry had previously said that Washington must reduce its diplomatic staff to 455 people by September 1.

Putin said in the July 30 interview that the reduced U.S. diplomatic presence would be "quite painful."

Based on reporting by TASS, AFP, and Reuters