After several months of warning they’d retaliate if the US kept making hostile moves, Russia today did so, seizing a pair of US diplomatic properties, and ordering the US Embassy in Russia to reduce its staff to 455 by September.
The sites are both in Moscow, a warehouse and a dacha along the Moscow River which embassy staff use to host barbecues. Russia is giving the US until Tuesday, August 1, to be out of those two sites.
This is more or less direct retaliation for the move in December, in which the Obama Administration seized a pair of vacation houses owned by the Russian Embassy in the US. Russia at the time said they were holding off retaliation, hoping the Trump Administration would have a change of heart and return the properties. They did not.
The cap of 455 embassy staff appears to be a significant reduction, though exactly how many that amounts to isn’t totally clear. Russia isn’t singling out specific people who have to leave, but has complained recent that there are “too many” US spies in Moscow with embassy credentials.
Some are speculating this could expel in excess of 100 embassy staffers, an it’s retaliation to both the US expulsion of Russian embassy staffers back in December, and a growing array of US sanctions against Russia.
The US Embassy issued a statement saying they had expressed “strong disappointment and protest” to the Russian government. Since Russia’s been complaining about comparable moves from the US side for seven solid months, it’s unlikely Russia’s going to be too worried about their disappointment.