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Russia expects 'political wisdom' from US over diplomatic spat

A US-Russia spat over diplomatic property and expelled diplomats threatens to escalate. The Kremlin wants seized property back and the return of its diplomats to Washington.

The Kremlin said Monday it expects Washington to show "political wisdom" in a spat over the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the United States.

Former US President Barack Obama in December ordered the seizure of two Russian government residential compounds in Maryland and New York and expelled 35 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The move came in retaliation for alleged Russian hacking in the US presidential campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to retaliate at the time, instead opting to wait to see what action the Donald Trump administration would take.

But Russia has hinted recently that it may retaliate if the US doesn't reverse the property seizure and allow its diplomats to return.

"If Washington decides not to solve this issue, we will have to take counter actions," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned last week.

The options the Kremlin is considering include the seizure of two American government properties near Moscow and the expulsion of US diplomats whom Russia says are spies.

"We still hope that our American colleagues will demonstrate a certain political wisdom and political will," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a Monday conference call with reporters.

Putin and Trump met face-to-face for the first time at the G20 in Hamburg

Putin and Trump met face-to-face for the first time at the G20 in Hamburg. The White House had previously hosted other high-ranking Russian diplomats.

Critical meeting

Later on Monday, US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon will host Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Washington for a meeting that is expected to address the diplomatic dispute, as well as touch on Syria and Ukraine.

A previous meeting schedule for June, part of a renewed diplomatic dialogue between the two rivals earlier this year, was canceled after the US imposed additional sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.

President Donald Trump and Putin met face-to-face for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, part of the new administration's effort to open a new chapter in relations with Russia.

But with congressional and federal investigations into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia looming over the president's head, he would face public and congressional pushback from reversing earlier retaliatory measures.

Congress is pressing for robust additional sanctions against Russia over its alleged meddling in the US election, support for the Syrian regime and intervention in Ukraine. 

cw/cmb (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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