EU closely watching developments around US' anti-Russian sanctions - European Commission rep

US expresses 'strong disappointment and protest' over Russia retaliation

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017.

US President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation slapping punitive sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea that the Congress approved this week, the White House has said.

In a reflection of overwhelming bipartisan support, the United States Senate has passed a bill that imposes tough and additional sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Michael McFaul, the USA ambassador to Russian Federation from 2012-2014, said he does not think that Russian Federation will escalate tensions with the United States just yet because Trump's assertions that he wants better relations with Moscow are encouraging Putin to continue seeking some kind of accommodation with the U.S. president.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russian Federation to reduce the number of its diplomats by September 1. The ministry is also suspending the U.S. Embassy's use of two sites - a storage facility and a dacha on an island in the Moscow River.

A European Commission spokesman in Brussels said the bloc would be following the sanctions process closely.

Trump had privately expressed frustration over Congress' ability to limit or override the power of the president on national security matters, according to Trump administration officials and advisers.

Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill 98 to 2 in June.

"I can not imagine anybody is seriously thinking about vetoing this bill", said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I don't think they are going to walk away from that just yet", said McFaul.

But the Kremlin's hopes for better relations under Trump haven't materialized as the probes of alleged Russian meddling in the US vote have widened in recent months.

Still, signing a bill that penalizes Russia's election interference marks a significant shift for Trump.

The new package of sanctions aims to hit President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle by targeting alleged corrupt officials, human rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

"We hope that there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues and these sanctions will no longer be necessary", Tillerson said in a statement.

The new sanctions include measures against North Korea, such as cutting oil supplies, and banning employment of North Korean forced laborers.

"The Russian decision to reduce USA diplomatic staff appears linked directly to the new Congressional sanctions bill", Steven Pifer, senior fellow of Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

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