Russian officials said the state might send home some of American spies operating in Moscow under diplomatic cover, as retaliation against th U.S. over their expulsion of 35 diplomats last year.
This was stated by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. This shows Moscow’s dissatisfaction due to the fact that Trump administration refused to hand back two Russian diplomatic compounds seized when Russian diplomats were expelled.
The expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats that were suspected to be spies was ordered by the America’s president at the time, Barack Obama. The seizure of two diplomatic compounds he justified saying they were connected to hacking occurred during the last presidential elections. Russia denied it several times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin than chose to wait and see what would new Trump’s administration do, and not to retaliate. On Friday, Zakharova said that US were not allowing Russian diplomats to get visas and replace their expelled colleagues.
“We have a way of responding,” she told at the press conference. “The number of staff at the US embassy in Moscow exceeds the number of our embassy employees in Washington by a big margin. One of our options, apart from a tit-for-tat expulsion of Americans, would be to even out the numbers.”
She added that if nothing happens soon regarding this problem, Kremlin will have to act and she implied that American spies operating in Russia will most likely be expelled
“There are too many employees of the CIA and the Pentagon’s espionage unit working under the roof of the American diplomatic mission whose activity does not correspond at all with their status,” said Zakharova. She also added that dacha compound and a warehouse located in will be confiscated from US diplomats.
On the other side, Dimitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman said that Putin decided nothing regarding retaliation. He added that Russia does not want to link the argument to other issues.
Peskov said all this as a respond to Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka’s comments made to CNN. In this statement Gorka seemed to connect the Russian attitudes regarding compounds to their behaviour in Syria.
“We don’t want to resort to extreme measures. (But) if it’s the only way to make our American partners understand we will have to act.” said Zakharova adding that Washington’s time to act “was running out”.
She said a lot depends on the result of a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon in Washington on Monday.
Zakharova also said that Russia assumes US will try to set out “detailed proposals” regarding this dispute on the meeting.
“There is no precise deadline. Everything depends on the reaction of the US side, its concrete actions, and on the results of the consultations which will now take place in Washington.”