US takes over three Russian diplomatic posts as Moscow slams retaliatory bid

September 3, 2017 5:37 am

Black smoke billows from a chimney on top of the Russian consulate on September 1, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by AFP)

The has seized control over three Russian diplomatic posts across the country amid strong protest by Moscow, which accused Washington of bullying tactics and slammed the move as a violation of international law.
The US move on Saturday to shut down ’s consulate in the West coast city of San Francisco along with trade offices in Washington and New York came in retaliation for Moscow’s decision last month to reduce American diplomatic staff in to 455.
This is while Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that it had summoned the deputy chief of the US mission in Moscow, Anthony Godfrey, to deliver a formal protest note describing the purported trade office search as an “unprecedented aggressive action.”

A sign is seen at the entrance of the compound of the Trade Representation building of the Russian Federation on September 2, 2017 in Washington DC. (Photo by AFP)

Moreover, the spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington, Nikolay Lakhonin, told reporters that the trade mission staff in the US capital were blocked from accessing the building as of 14:00 local time on Saturday.
The head of the Russian trade mission in the US, Aleksandr Stadnik, further stated in a press briefing that he considers the searches at the two trade compounds as a takeover in violation of international law. He confirmed that the US authorities lifted diplomatic immunity from the trade mission buildings.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also announced on Friday that the FBI was planning to search the general consulate premises, including homes of diplomatic staff, which would violate diplomatic immunity.

Police cars are parked outside the compound of the Trade Representation building of the Russian Federation on September 2, 2017 in Washington DC.
(Photo by AFP)

Moscow further underlined that it considers the latest US measure as “an aggressive action,” which could also be used by US intelligence to “orchestrate an anti-Russian provocation by planting compromising items.”
The US State Department, meanwhile, will control all access to the Russian properties, along with the responsibility for securing and maintaining them, authorities said.
The closures mark what may be the most drastic diplomatic measure by Washington against Moscow since 1986, near the end of the Cold War, when the nuclear-armed powers expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats.
A day earlier, black smoke was seen billowing from the chimney at the consulate as the Russians rushed to meet the Saturday expulsion deadline, as workers could be seen hauling boxes out of the building.
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