US seizes control of Russia's SFO Consulate; annexes in NY, DC
The US seized control of Russia's Consulate in San Francisco and its two annexes in New York and Washington DC today after confirming that Moscow had complied with the Trump administration's order to vacate them within two days, officials said.
The Trump administration had asked Russia to close down its three diplomatic complexes, which was mainly in retaliation for Moscow's decision last month to reduce the number of American diplomatic personnel by several hundreds.
"The Department of State can confirm that the Russian government complied with the order to vacate its Consulate and two annexes," a senior State Department official said.
The official said Russia will no longer be permitted to use these facilities for diplomatic or consular purposes and the state department will control all access to the three buildings, along with the responsibility for securing and maintaining them.
"Entry or access to the properties will be granted only with permission of the Department of State, which will secure and maintain the facilities in keeping with its responsibilities. No Russian diplomats are being expelled from the US in connection with these closures," the official said.
According to the official, Russian Embassy personnel, together with the State Department officials, walked through three properties in San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC that the Russian government was required to close.
"These inspections were carried out to secure and protect the facilities and to confirm the Russian government had vacated the premises. The United States is fully adhering to the Vienna Convention, US law, and bilateral agreements in these actions as well as in its demands for Russia to draw down those diplomatic properties," the official said.
The US had made separate arrangements to end existing residential uses that will allow families sufficient time to pack out and move.
"Accusations made by the Russian government, including that US officials threatened to break down doors in the relevant properties or that the FBI is clearing the premises, are untrue," the official added.
Last month, Russia forced the cut in US diplomatic staff earlier this year in retaliation for American sanctions. The US had to reduce its diplomatic staff by 755 people.
Moscow ordered the US to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half to 455 people, after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia. The sanctions were imposed in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and to punish Russia further for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.