US Vacates Russia Compounds Targeted Over Sanctions

The US on Tuesday cleared out of two diplomatic compounds around Moscow under the first stage of punitive measures imposed by Russia in retaliation for new sanctions being readied in Washington.

Embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson said officials removed “the remaining furniture, kitchen and BBQ items, and the playground set” from a summer house outside Moscow, and “all the items” from a warehouse facility in the city, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

The shuttering of the two compounds marks just the beginning of Russia’s punishment with the US also being forced to slash hundreds of jobs at its diplomatic mission in the country by September 1.

The purge of an expected 755 local and American staff represents one of the biggest forced reductions of US personnel in Russia throughout the fraught diplomatic history between the two powers.

It was announced as US President Donald Trump is expected to sign off on fresh sanctions against Moscow that were agreed overwhelmingly on Thursday by the US Senate.

The new measures appear to have convinced Moscow that there will be no quick improvement in ties with the US despite Trump pledging better relations during his campaign.

Tensions between Russia and the US have soared to their highest point since Moscow seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

In December then president Barack Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats out of the US and closed two diplomatic compounds over allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential vote election.

Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin held off from responding at the time, saying he would wait to see how Trump acted once he took power.