Russia demands return of closed diplomatic buildings in US

Russia was forced to vacate its consulate in San Francisco (left) and two diplomatic buildings in New York and Washington on Saturday.
Russia was forced to vacate its consulate in San Francisco (left) and two diplomatic buildings in New York and Washington on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW • Russia yesterday demanded the United States rethink its shuttering of Moscow's diplomatic premises, insisting Washington bore sole responsibility for worsening ties after the "hostile act".

"We consider what has happened as an openly hostile act and a gross violation of international law by Washington," the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement.

"We call on the American authorities to come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic properties or all blame for the continuing degradation in our relations lies on the US."

Russia was forced on Saturday to vacate its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic buildings in New York and Washington after the US ordered the move in the latest twist of a lengthy feud.

US federal agents inspected a Russian trade mission in Washington to confirm its closure, a step that drew a fierce diplomatic protest from Moscow on Saturday.

The Russian foreign ministry said yesterday that the "US intelligence services with the support of armed police were now in charge of the seized buildings".

Washington issued the closure order on Thursday, in retaliation for Moscow ordering the US to slash its diplomatic mission by 755 personnel by last Friday.

The number of US diplomatic staff will now be capped at 455, the same number that Russia has in the US.

The recent surge in tensions between the two nuclear-armed powers was a diplomatic setback for US President Donald Trump.

During his campaign for office last year, he promised to try to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ties had slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War after the Kremlin's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The West slapped sanctions on Russia over its meddling in its former Soviet neighbour, sparking a revenge embargo from Moscow against agricultural products.

Last year, tensions again escalated after US intelligence accused Mr Putin of masterminding a hacking and influence campaign to tip the presidential vote to Mr Trump.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2017, with the headline 'Russia demands return of closed diplomatic buildings in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe