- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Russian government is ready to expel dozens of U.S. diplomats and claim American property if President Trump signs a bill imposing new economic sanctions, a Russian newspaper reported Thursday.

The move would mark a belated retaliation for a similar move by President Obama in late 2016 to protest what the U.S. said was the Kremlin’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin refrained from responding at the time in hopes of forging a better relationship with the incoming Trump administration.

According to the Kommersant newspaper, officials in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are now prepared to seize U.S. Embassy property in parts of Moscow and expel 35 U.S. diplomats if Mr. Trump signs a bill, overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House on Tuesday, that would increase sanctions against Russia. The Senate has not yet voted on the bill, but is expected to follow suit.

Mr. Trump has raised questions about the sanctions bill, and the lack of flexibility it gives the president to waive sanctions, but the White House has signaled in recent days the president is likely to sign the bill.

Russia has also threatened to reduce the number of American diplomats allowed in the U.S. mission in Russia to match the number of Russians working in the embassy in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Putin has repeatedly denied Moscow tried to tamper with the U.S. presidential vote. On a visit to Finland Thursday, he expressed his growing frustration with the sanctions push in Washington over the incident.

“As you know, we are exercising restraint and patience, but at some moment we’ll have to retaliate. It’s impossible to endlessly tolerate this boorishness towards our country,” Mr. Putin told a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart, according to the Reuters news agency.

Russia’s response “will depend on the final version of the draft law which is now being debated in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Putin added.

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