Russia on Sunday accused the US of seizing its diplomatic properties and warned Washington that its actions would lead to an even greater deterioration in relations between the two powers.
A statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry said the US authorities had illegally seized the Russian consulate in San Francisco and the trade office in Washington which, it said, were Russian properties and enjoyed diplomatic immunity, Efe news reported.
American security services had searched both buildings on Saturday after giving Moscow a 48-hour notice to abandon the premises.
The statement accused US intelligence of taking over the buildings with backing by armed police, adding that Russia considered this an “openly hostile act and a flagrant violation of international law, including the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations”.
The ministry termed the move “outrageous” and said it followed on the heels of the ‘de facto’ expropriation of two Russian compounds in Washington and New York that took place last December.
It also urged US authorities to “come to their senses” and immediately return the Russian diplomatic offices.
“Otherwise, the responsibility of continuing the degradation of relations between our nations, on which international stability and security are largely dependent, will fall on the US,” it concluded.
The Foreign Ministry on Saturday had sent a protest note to the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Moscow, Anthony Godfrey, that called the search of Russia’s trade mission office in Washington an “unprecedented aggressive action”.
On Friday, the US government had decreed the closure of the San Francisco consulate and the trade offices in Washington and New York as a response to Moscow ordering a reduction in the US diplomatic mission to Russia in July.
The measure by the Kremlin, in turn, came as retaliation for a sanctions package passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the US Congress that was imposed as punishment for Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.