U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. will lose some staff starting in April after Russia announced Thursday that it will expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, according to CNN.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that 58 diplomats from the U.S. mission in Moscow and two more from Yekaterinburg would be declared “persona non grata” and would be given “incompatible with diplomatic status."
The diplomats have until April 5 to leave the country, according to CNN. There will still be roughly 700 U.S. diplomats left in Russia.
The other U.S. consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, will not be affected.
Russian President Vladimir Putin previously asked the U.S. to reduce its number of diplomats by 750 in July 2017. At the time, there was believed to be about 1,200 U.S. State Department employees in Russia, according to BBC.
Huntsman Jr. was told of the recent decision by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday. The U.S. ambassador told local Russia news outlet RBC that the U.S might target Russia's assets abroad, according to The Washington Post.
However, Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, was "warned that such a move would have the 'gravest consequences for global stability,'" according to The Washington Post, which reviewed a readout of Huntsman Jr.'s meeting with Ryabkov.
Russia’s decision comes after the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats Monday as a response to the United Kingdom blaming Moscow exposing a former Russian double agent and his daughter to a nerve agent, BBC News reported. The father and daughter remained hospitalized since the March 4 poisoning.
Huntsman Jr. said earlier this week that Russia needs to change its behavior so that relations between Russia and the U.S. can improve, according to the Deseret News.
“The United States is ready to cooperate and forge a better relationship between our two countries. But that will only be possible when Russia chooses to become a more responsible partner,” he said in a brief video posted on the U.S. Embassy website.
Huntsman Jr. said the decision by at least 21 countries to oust 135 Russians is a sign for Russia to change its behavior.
“With these actions, the United States along with its allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” he said.3 comments on this story
He told a Russian radio station earlier this year that he expected to see Putin and President Donald Trump to meet.
"We have to take the steps that build the trust and create a framework of problem-solving that results in enough success where the people in Russia and the people in the United States can say, 'OK, I understand why they’re having a formal meeting. They’ve done enough together; they’ve built enough trust. They’ve had enough in the way of success in Syria and Ukraine, (North Korea),’" Huntsman Jr. told Echo of Moscow.