Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats in Moscow and St. Petersburg in retaliation for the American decision to eject the same number of Russian diplomatic staff.
Lavrov asked President Vladimir Putin to approve the tit-for-tat move. “We can’t, of course, leave such steps without a response,” Lavrov said in televised comments on Friday. “Reciprocity is a law of diplomacy and international relations.”
The announcement came a day after President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and imposed sanctions on top intelligence officials and agencies over cyberattacks allegedly backed by the Kremlin and aimed at interfering with the 2016 election campaign.
The Russian government, which has denied it was behind the hacking, emphasized that the decision was made by Obama and accused his outgoing administration of trying to sabotage President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to seek better relations with the Kremlin. Trump has said he wants to cooperate with Putin in fighting terrorism and may review sanctions imposed over Russia’s involvement in a conflict in Ukraine.
The U.S. also said it shut down two Russian compounds-- one in Maryland and another in New York -- used for “intelligence-related purposes.” In response, Russia will ban the U.S. from using a recreational site outside Moscow and a warehouse in the Russian capital, Lavrov said.