15:49 GMT18 May 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia has opportunities to take measures that are able to hurt US business, but for now they will remain in reserve, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

    "We also have the opportunity to take painful measures for American business, we will also keep them in reserve", Lavrov said during a press conference.

    Russia will also respond in kind to a US decision to expel 10 Russian diplomats and will ask 10 American diplomats to leave Russia.

    Russia may ask the Americans to reduce diplomatic staff levels by 150 in order to meet the number of Russians working for the embassy and consulates in the United States, if the two countries continue exchanging blows. He estimated that Russia hired some 300 staffers to service the embassy and the consulates, while another 150 diplomatic staffers worked at the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York, while the US employed 450 diplomats to work at the Moscow embassy and consulates.

    On Thursday, the US slapped new sanctions on 32 Russian individuals and entities. Washington also prohibited US financial institutions from buying Russian government bonds starting 14 June.

    Additionally, the US has expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the new US sanctions as running contrary to the interests of the two nations.

    Practice of Hiring Russians for Work in US Diplomatic Missions

    Russian Foreign Minister also announced the launch of a procedure that will suspend the practice of hiring citizens of Russia and third countries to work in US diplomatic missions in Russia.

    "We are launching a procedure in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and in accordance with Russian law, including the labour code, that will suspend the practice of hiring citizens of Russia and third countries to work in US diplomatic missions in Russia", Lavrov said.
    According to him, this practice is widely used by the United States, and not by Russia, so Moscow is introducing parity in this matter.

    The minister added that Moscow would also suspend the practice of "uncontrolled unlimited short-term trips" of the employees of the US State Department and other agencies to do some work in US diplomatic missions in Russia, since the goal of such work is sometimes "misleading."

    According to Lavrov, Moscow has also decided to begin the procedure for denouncing the agreement regulating the travel of US diplomats in Russia outside the US diplomatic missions. Moscow will deal with these issues on an individual basis in the future.

    Fate of Open Skies Treaty 

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes that the fate of the Open Skies Treaty "hangs in the balance."

    "There is the Open Skies Treaty — a multilateral document, now its fate is hanging in the balance, the Americans have withdrawn from it," Lavrov told reporters.

    The United States began the withdrawal procedure last July and stopped being a member in November, citing alleged violations by Russia.

    On 15 January, Russia announced launching the withdrawal procedure, too, which normally takes six months. Moscow said it would reverse the decision if European signatories agree to two conditions — first, not to share intelligence collected during flights under the treaty over its military infrastructure with the United States, and second, to allow Russian flights over US military infrastructure located in Europe.

    The 1992 treaty was designed to build confidence between Russia and the collective West, primarily NATO members, by allowing them to conduct unarmed flights over each other's territories to monitor military activities on short notice. Experts fear that the deal will lose its appeal after the withdrawal of the United States and Russia.

    Russia-US Summit

    Moscow positively views Washington's proposal to hold a summit between Russia and the United States and studies it.

    "There is a lot of talk about [US President] Joe Biden's proposal to organize a bilateral summit. As we have already noted, we reacted positively to this, now we are studying various aspects of this initiative", Lavrov said during a press conference.

    Earlier in April, Biden proposed Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold a personal meeting in a third country.

    Tags:
    Moscow, Sergei Lavrov, Russia
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