In response to continuance of sanctions imposed by U.S. administration, Russia has threatened to significantly reduce the number of personnel at the American embassy in Moscow due to the seizure of its diplomatic property in the United States.
"The previous U.S. administration had left a lot of unsolved issues for the new chief executive's team concerning the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, the unlawful seizure of Russia's property despite its diplomatic immunity. If they don't discontinue this practice, then it will be hard to build relations," TASS quoted foreign ministry's spokeswoman Zakharova as saying.
"The seized compounds have not been returned yet. Washington has not only failed to cancel the decision on the expulsion of our diplomats, but it also refuses to issue visas to those who are scheduled to replace the expelled personnel," she said. "Attempts are being made to link the un-linkable and beat around the bush when it comes to actual issues," she added.
"If there is no progress, we will have to take retaliatory measures," she warned. "As for the measures - the number of personnel at the US 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 US diplomats, we will just have to even the number of personnel," Zakharova added.
The U.S. has refused to issue visas to Russian diplomats, who have to come to replace the 35 diplomats expelled at the end of December, she went on.
The Obama administration in late December 2016 announced sweeping new measures against Russia, including ordering the expulsion of Russian "intelligence operatives", the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Agency of Russia's General Staff and slapping new sanctions on state agencies and individuals suspected in the hacks of U.S. computer systems in retaliation for interference in presidential election.
Zakharova said earlier that these facilities had always had diplomatic immunity, so their seizure was a gross violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Besides that, US authorities expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland. However, Moscow fully rejected all allegations and refrained from a tit-for-tat response.
The FBI and CIA had concluded that Russia intervened repeatedly in the 2016 election, leaking damaging information in an attempt to undermine the electoral process and help Donald Trump take the White House.