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Russia set to declare 35 US diplomats persona non grata

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called US accusations against Russia of interference in elections groundless

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. Russia announces 35 US diplomats persona non grata - those are 31 personnel of the embassy in Moscow and four of the consulate general in St. Petersburg, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

"We, of course, cannot leave unanswered the insults of the kind, reciprocity is the law of diplomacy and foreign relations," he said. "Thus, the Russian Foreign Ministry and officials of other authorities have suggested the Russian president to announce 31 personnel of the US Embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the Consulate General in St. Petersburg persona non grata."

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has also submitted a proposal to the president to ban US diplomats from using two facilities in Moscow, a vacation house in Serebryany Bor and a warehouse on Dorozhnaya street, according to Lavrov.

Washington’s accusations that the Russian state was behind attempts to meddle in the US presidential election are groundless, Lavrov said.

"The outgoing US administration of Barack Obama accusing Russia of all mortal sins, trying to blame us for the failure of its foreign policy initiatives, among other things, has put forward additional accusations without any grounds whatsoever that the Russian state was behind attempts to meddle in the US election campaign, which led to the defeat of the democratic candidate," Lavrov said.

"Yesterday, the US administration, without providing any facts or evidence announced a new wave of sanctions against the Russian Federation," the minister went on to say. "Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), some other Russian agencies and individuals were sanctioned. The sanctions also covered our diplomats. Thirty-five people working in Washington and San Francisco (31 in Washington and four in San Francisco) have to leave the US before the end of the day on January 1."

The Russian compounds closed by the US administration in New York and Maryland were used for the recreation of children during the winter holidays, Lavrov said.

"We are forbidden to use the property that is the state property of the Russian Federation," Lavrov said. These are places for the recreation of the ministry staff in Washington and for the Russian mission to the UN, Lavrov has noted. 

"The manners of the US administration are quite evident. In both cases, the dachas were supposed to be used by children during the winter holidays, the camps traditionally open there," Russia’s top diplomat said. "And these dachas have been declared spy nests as I understand from the statements of the US administration."

On December 29, it became known that Washington is imposing new sanctions against Moscow over its alleged cyberattacks on US institutions. The restrictive measures announced on Thursday apply to some Russian companies, the Federal Security Service and the Russian General Staff’s Main Department and its senior officials. In addition to that, the US authorities declared 35 Russian diplomats persona non grata. Washington also informed the Russian government that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian government.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in cyberattacks. Commenting on the new sanctions, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they are a manifestation of aggression.