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The Latest: Lavrov says Moscow had to react to US sanctions

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on reaction to new U.S. sanctions on Russia (all times local): 7 p.m. Russia's Foreign Ministry says Minister Sergei Lavrov has told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call that Moscow was forced to respond to the new package of U.S. sanctions and that it is still willing to improve ties with Washington.

Russia on Friday ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Russia and said it was closing down a U.S. recreational retreat in response to the U.S. approval of a new package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday evening that Minister Lavrov told Secretary Tillerson in a phone call earlier that day that Russia's decision was "triggered by a number of hostile steps" the U.S. has recently taken.

Lavrov added, however, that Moscow was "ready to normalize the bilateral relations with the U.S. and cooperate on important international issues."

2:15 p.m.

The European Union is remaining vigilant about the package of new U.S. sanctions on Russia, amid fears the penalties could harm the bloc's energy security and impact European companies.

European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said Friday that European officials "will be watching how this process unfolds and then, of course, we'll be watching equally attentively how this law, ... if and when it enters into force, will be applied in practice."

He added that some EU concerns have been addressed in the latest draft law, but, "we remain vigilant."

The proposed measures target Russia's energy sector as part of legislation that prevents President Donald Trump from easing sanctions on Moscow without congressional approval.

Trump has yet to sign off on the package.

1:45 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister says his country won't accept new U.S. sanctions against Russia being applied to European companies but is underlining Berlin's hopes of coordinating policy toward Moscow.

Germany and Austria in recent weeks criticized the planned penalties, saying they could affect European businesses involved in piping Russian natural gas. The Senate on Friday decisively approved a package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Berlin won't let up in pushing for a joint approach.

Gabriel said in a statement: "It remains the case that we will in no way accept an extraterritorial application of these U.S. sanctions against European companies."

He added that sanctions are not "an appropriate instrument to promote national export interests and the domestic energy industry."

12:45 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia and said it was closing down a U.S. recreation retreat in response to fresh sanctions against Russia.

The ministry said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russia to reduce the number of its diplomats by Sept. 1. Russia will also close down the embassy's recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

The U.S. Senate approved a new package of stiff financial sanctions Friday against Russia, Iran and North Korea and sent it to President Donald Trump to sign.

The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

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.

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