3 Russian diplomatic spaces in US must close

MOSCOW • Russia and the US are locked in a fresh diplomatic slugging match after Washington ordered the closure of Moscow's San Francisco consulate and two other facilities.

The retaliatory US move came as a Sept 1 deadline was reached for Washington to comply with a Kremlin demand to slash staff numbers at its Russian diplomatic mission by 755 personnel.

The spat between the two nuclear-armed powers was another blow to US President Donald Trump's pledge to try to improve ties with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Washington on Thursday said it had ordered the shuttering of Russia's San Francisco consulate and two diplomatic annexes - in Washington and New York - "in the spirit of parity", after Moscow last month demanded that it cut its diplomatic staff strength.

"The United States has fully implemented the decision by the government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia," Ms Heather Nauert, a spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement.

Washington said it hoped the two sides "can avoid further retaliatory actions" and improve ties but warned it was "prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted".

Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed "regret at the escalation of tensions" and said it would "examine the new measures announced by the Americans in detail", after which a reaction will be announced.

But top Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov said yesterday: "We are open even now for constructive cooperation where it answers Russian interests. But it takes two to tango and so far, our partner is, again and again, doing an individual breakdance."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline '3 Russian diplomatic spaces in US must close'. Print Edition | Subscribe