Russia expels U.S. embassy staff in retaliatory move as tensions mount between Washington and Moscow

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  • For weeks there have been reports of Russian military gathering on the Ukrainian border.
  • Although it aspires to membership, Ukraine is not a member of either the European Union or NATO, and NATO is not obliged to defend the country.
  • As such, it is uncertain how far the US and EU can go to defend the country.

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Relations between the US and Russia, which are already strained, took another turn for the worse on Wednesday, when Russia said it was ordering US embassy staff who remained home by the end of January. Has been in Moscow for more than three years.

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It said it resorted to “retaliatory action” after Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said 27 Russian diplomats and their families would have to leave the US on January 30, and another 27 diplomats would need to leave. June, because his visa has not been extended by the US authorities.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that Moscow considered the departure of Russian diplomats from the US an act of expulsion and that “our American allies have forced such a game on us.”

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“We view the US demand as an act of expulsion and intend to resort to retaliation,” she said. “Members of the US Embassy in Russia who have been on their missions here for more than three years must leave Russia before January 31, 2022,” Russian news agency TASS reported.

Biden-Putin meeting

The news comes amid uncertainty over the details of a much-anticipated meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin as fears Russia may prepare to invade Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday she had no new information about a possible meeting between the two leaders, who last met in Switzerland this summer.

Saki’s remarks Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that preparations for a summit between Putin and Biden were at an “advanced stage”, but that the discussions most likely would not take place in person, news agency TASS reported,

The Biden administration has more pressing concerns about Russia at the moment, Psaki. with It is “deeply concerned” about the growing rhetoric about alleged Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine.,

Reports of Russian forces building up on Ukraine’s border have been pouring in for weeks, raising widespread concerns that Russia is preparing to invade its neighbor, which was once part of the Soviet Union before its dissolution in 1991. .

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has been accused of sending troops and weapons to support a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, two self-declared republics, although it denies this. .

Now, many close to Russia believe that Putin is planning to launch some kind of military action against Ukraine given the rhetoric and movement of troops from Moscow, but Russia denies such assumptions. does. Putin himself has called him an “alarmist”.

prepare for the worst

NATO is also concerned, however, with military alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warning on Tuesday that NATO members should prepare for the worst when it comes to Russia and Ukraine.

“You can discuss whether the probability of an intrusion is 20% or 80%, it doesn’t matter. We need to be prepared for the worst,” Stoltenberg told reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia.

The NATO chief, referring to Crimea, said, “There is no certainty, no clarity about what the Russian intentions are, and they can indeed develop and change.”

“We need to send a message to Russia that they should not make military incursions into Ukraine. They have done this before. They continue to support separatists in the Donbass. And we must send the message, that they should not do this.” … again. And hopefully they don’t. But as I said, we also need to be prepared for the second scenario, that Russia does, in fact, once again use military force,” he said.

Stoltenberg reiterated a warning to Russia that “a future Russian offensive against Ukraine would come at a high cost and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia.” The US and European Union have also warned Russia against invading Ukraine, and Russia already has international sanctions for its annexation of Crimea.

Although it aspires to membership, Ukraine is not a member of either the European Union or NATO, and NATO is not obliged to defend the country. As such, it is uncertain how far the US and EU can go to defend the country. Stoltenberg referred to the issue on Tuesday, noting that “it was important to differentiate between NATO allies and fellow Ukraine.”

Ukraine has reportedly urged NATO to prepare economic sanctions on Russia and boost military cooperation with Kiev, with the country’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba telling reporters that “we are asking allies to engage in a deterrent package with Ukraine.” Will call to be” as he arrived for ongoing talks with his NATO counterparts in Riga on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Russia’s ‘Red Lines’

For Russia’s part, Putin has said that NATO countries that deploy weapons or troops to Ukraine would cross a “red line” to Moscow, and could launch a stronger response.

Speaking at VTB Capital’s investment conference on Tuesday, Putin was asked about Russia’s “red lines” in Ukraine.

He replied Saying that the red lines would be “probably hazards emanating from that area” [Ukraine] … if they try and deploy attack systems on Ukrainian soil then the flight time to Moscow will be 5-7 minutes …. and we will have to respond with something similar, which bothers us. And we can do that, we are capable.”

He said Russia was concerned about military exercises which he claimed were being conducted near Russian borders, adding that they were a threat to Moscow.

“The Russian Federation remains somewhat concerned over the major military exercises conducted near its borders, including the recent Black Sea, when strategic bombers were flying just 20 kilometers from our border, which could be used with precision weapons and potentially Were armed with nuclear weapons, of course we would consider it a threat to ourselves,” Putin said. He then complained about the expansion of NATO and military infrastructure, missile defense systems, which are located in Poland and Romania.

Russia said on Wednesday it had begun regular winter military exercises in its southern military district, which borders parts of Ukraine, and moved 10,000 troops to training grounds across the region, Reuters reported.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, Andrey Kostin, president and chairman of VTB Bank, responded to reports of military build-up along the Ukrainian border.

“Every movement we are doing within the country is within our territory, whereas, for example, we have NATO ships, including American ships, which are moving in the Black Sea that cross the Russian border. only 20 or 30 kilometers away… we are living in a situation where NATO missiles can reach our territory in seven minutes, so we are in a much bigger danger than NATO countries or the US,” he told CNBC. Said from “Squawk Box Europe”.

Noting the deteriorating state of relations between Russia and the West, Kostin said the lack of trust was “a great threat to Russia”, although he hoped relations could improve.

“We are very confident that sooner or later the relationship will get better, we look forward to some announcement on a possible meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden, so we very much hope that there will be some positive changes here.”

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