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Russia reserves right to further slash US diplomatic staff: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow reserves the right to further cut the number of American diplomatic staff in his country after Washington targeted three more Russian facilities on US soil.

“We reserve the right to take a decision on the number of US diplomats in Moscow. But we won’t do that for now. Let’s wait and see how the situation develops further,” Putin said at a press conference after a BRICs summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen on Tuesday.

Washington seized control over three Russian diplomatic posts in the US on Saturday amid strong protests by Moscow.

The US move to shut down Russia’s consulate post in San Francisco along with two trade posts in Washington and New York came in retaliation for Moscow’s last month decision to significantly reduce American diplomatic staff in Russia.

Putin further described as “boorish” and “unprecedented” Washington’s actions towards Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the US, saying he would order the Foreign Ministry to sue the US authorities over “violation of Russia’s property rights.”

“This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. Therefore, for a start, I will order the Foreign Ministry to go to court – and let’s see just how efficient the much-praised US judiciary is,” he added.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described the latest Washington measures against Moscow’s facilities as “state hooliganism.”

The diplomatic standoff between the two sides first broke out last December, when the outgoing Washington administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for yet unsubstantiated Russian interference in the US electoral process.

Moscow did not respond in kind back then, reportedly for having received signals that the incoming administration of President Donald Trump would be more favorable towards Russia.

While Trump himself has been perceived as open toward warmer relations with Russia, the US Congress slapped more bans on Russia over the alleged election interference, prompting Moscow to order a 60-percent cut in the number of US diplomatic staff last month.

‘UN bans on North Korea useless’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Putin said imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear missile program is counter-productive.

The Russian president also criticized US approach to the North Korean crisis, warning that Washington’s threats of military action could lead to “a global catastrophe.”

“Russia condemns North Korea’s exercises, we consider that they are a provocation … (But) ramping up military hysteria will lead to nothing good. It could lead to a global catastrophe,” he said.

He renewed the call for talks and a peaceful solution to the crisis, saying North Korea would not halt its missile program until it feels secure.

Pyongyang says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward the country and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.

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