White House pushes incoherent talking point about Russian sanctions bill

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

The former U.S. administration, headed by Democratic Barack Obama, had expelled 35 Russian diplomats over "spying" and seized two diplomatic premises used by Russia late past year amid allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, in which Republican Donald Trump won the presidency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 under new sanctions from Moscow.

On July 27, the US Congress adopted a new bill on tougher sanctions against Russian Federation.

The sanctions, which were approved on a 98-2 Senate vote and overwhelmingly passed the House on Tuesday, are sure to antagonize the Kremlin as well as European nations fearing their companies will be penalized.

Earlier on Thursday, a senior White House aide said Trump could veto the pending legislation in order to push for a tougher deal, an idea that drew skepticism in Congress because his administration had spent weeks lobbying for a weaker bill.

The new sanctions come as the White House grapples with several ongoing probes into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, which the President has blasted as unnecessary.

Under the cloud of the Russian Federation imbroglio and the strong support in Congress for a tougher line on Russian Federation, it will be hard for Trump to veto the measure without appearing to play into the hands of his critics. Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

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Russian Federation has asked the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic staff by September 1 and has said it is seizing a dacha compound and warehouse used by United States diplomats in retaliation to new sanctions. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters: "I would guess that he (Trump) will sign it".

Asked about the potential for additional sanctions against Washington, Mr Putin described the reduction in diplomatic staff as "painful" and said he now opposed further measures.

The U.S. was Russia's third-largest trading partner in 2016 with exports and imports valued at $25.6 billion, though that's still only about five percent of Russia's overall trade.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump would sign the bill, but only after having negotiated "critical elements" of it. The creation of the Southern de-escalation zone in Syria showed a concrete result of the joint work between the two countries, Putin said.

Russia's response mirrors moves by outgoing President Barack Obama last December to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian estates in the U.S.

Putin noted the sanctions against Russian Federation are illegal from the point of view of global law and World Trade Organization norms.

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