As we reported yesterday, Russia ordered the United States to reduce the number of diplomatic staff in the country by September and announced that it is seizing two US diplomatic properties in response to new sanctions approved by the House and Senate.
In an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attempted to paint Russia as a victim and warned that there would be retaliation if the US pursues "further deterioration."
Yes, it is, and I think this retaliation are long, long overdue. After the Senate...voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop. If the US side decides to move towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate. My goal and my whole point is, don't do this, i'ts to the detriment to the interests of the US.
Raddatz asked him to describe what he meant by "retaliate."
We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal. It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen. We are not gamblers. We are people who consider things very seriously and very responsibly. I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things, both symmetrical or asymmetrical, to use a very popular word in the world of diplomacy.
Raddatz also asked Ryabkov about contacts Russian officials had with people in the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, and he responded by telling her "You have to go through all the hearings...you have all the names" and that if Ambassador Kislyak was not contacting people "on the other side" he was not performing his duties correctly.
In a televised interview Sunday, Vladimir Putin said the United States must cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 before September 1. He says over 1,000 people, both Americans and Russians, are employed at the embassy and consulates. The State Department wouldn't give an exact number of American diplomats or other officials in Russia, but it's believed to be around 400.
President Trump hasn't yet signed the sanctions bill, but Putin decided to retaliate anyway. "We had hoped that the situation will somehow change, but apparently if it changes, it won't be soon. I thought it was the time to show that we're not going to leave it without an answer."