The Latest: US VP wants better relations with Russia

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on U.S-Russian tensions (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says that despite what the State Department described as "a regrettable and uncalled-for act" when the Kremlin ordered the U.S. to cut embassy and consulate staff in Russia, America wants to improve relations with Moscow.

Pence told reporters during a visit to Estonia that "we hope for better days, and better relations with Russia."

Speaking to the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — all former Soviet republics bordering Russia — he said Monday that "the recent diplomatic action taken by Moscow will not deter the commitment of the United States to our security, the security of our allies, and the security of freedom-loving nations around the world."

Pence was speaking on the first leg of a European tour that continues to Georgia and Montenegro.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. would have to cut 755 of its embassy and consulate staff in Russia — a sweeping reduction that he described as a response to new U.S. sanctions.


1:10 p.m.

The Kremlin says Washington needs to show "political will" for Russia-U.S. relations to recover.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday that it will take time for the U.S. to rid itself of what he called "political schizophrenia." He added that Russia remains interested in constructive cooperation with the U.S.

On Sunday, Putin said the U.S. would have to cut 755 of its embassy and consulate staff in Russia — a sweeping reduction which he described as a response to new U.S. sanctions. The Russian Foreign Ministry also announced closing down a U.S. recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

Moscow's move showed that its earlier hopes for an improvement in Russia-U.S. ties after Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election have withered.


12 noon

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that United States cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people, heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow three days after the U.S. Congress approved sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. State Department called Putin's move "a regrettable and uncalled-for act."

The announcement Sunday also came hours after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence landed in Estonia, which borders Russia, for talks with the country that holds the rotating European Union presidency.

Russian's Foreign Ministry on Friday first ordered a reduction by Sept. 1 in U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 people in response to a new package of American sanctions.

The sanctions seek to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and for its aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

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