Russian President Vladimir Putin walks along the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin, to take part in a holiday reception in Moscow, June 12, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik)
Russia has accused the United States of having too many spies operating within its diplomatic offices, and of refusing to cooperate on diplomatic issues.
“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,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova said on Friday according to TASS.
Zakharova also has said that Russia is considering expelling a number of these employees, and significantly reducing the number of U.S. officials working in Moscow.
“The number of personnel at the U.S. embassy in Moscow significantly exceeds the number of our personnel working in Washington. So, one of the options is that, apart from expelling the corresponding number of U.S. diplomats, we will just have to even the number of personnel,” she said.
The warning is partially a response in retaliation to the United States’ expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in Washington last year, who were kicked out at the same time two Russian diplomatic compounds were seized by the Obama administration.
The U.S. justified the move accusing Russia of interfering in electoral processes, something which Russian officials have denied.
Russia has been increasingly frustrated with the U.S.’s refusal to give back the compounds, and allow Russia to replace the expelled diplomats.
If the issue is not resolved, Zakharova said Russia will be forced to take “reciprocal measures.”
“Everything depends on the reaction of the U.S. side, its concrete actions, and on the results of the consultations which will now take place in Washington,” she added.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia rejected the idea of linking the dispute to other political issues.
However, Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev criticized the “cynical” approach the U.S. was taking toward diplomacy and dialogue.
“Even hinting at possible steps toward cooperation between our countries is currently seen in the U.S. as political suicide,” he said.