A rather astonishing development in the diplomatic confrontation between the US and Russia. Both RT and Sputnik are reporting that Russian diplomatic staff who have apartments in a building in San Francisco–the same building which also houses the Russian Consulate–have been ordered to vacate their homes for a period of 12 hours. The reason? So that FBI agents may conduct a search of their living quarters.
This would seem to be a rather severe breach of protocol since reportedly the staff members effected have diplomatic immunity. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is calling it a “threat to the security of Russian citizens.”
The searches will not only be carried out at Russia’s consulate offices, but also at the apartments of staff who live in the building and who have immunity, she said.
To perform those searches, US authorities have ordered those staff members and their families, including children and babies, to leave their homes for up to 12 hours.
Curiously, we also have this video of smoke rising from the Russian consulate. The San Francisco Fire Department says don’t worry, nothing to worry about.
“On August 31, the US authorities declared unprecedented measures on limiting the activity of Russian diplomatic and consular missions in the US,” said Zakharova, as quoted by Tass.
“We voice strong protest over Washington’s steps that ignore the international law and, as is common in diplomatic practice, we reserve a possibility to retaliate. This is not our choice. They impose it on us,” she added.
Russian Foreign Ministry Accuses US of Direct Threat to Diplomats
“The demands of the US authorities create a direct threat to the security of Russian citizens,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday. US special services plan to search the Russian consulate in San Francisco and even scour the residences of consulate workers on Sepetember 2.
“Alongside yet another raid on expensive objects of Russian state property, which [the US] has blocked and are now persistently offering to put up on sale, this time the demands of the US authorities pose a direct threat to security of Russian citizens,” she said.
FBI agents are to conduct the search, Zakharova said, commenting that such searches directly compromise the Russian staff’s diplomatic immunity.
Moscow adamantly opposes the US State Department’s decision to close down three Russian diplomatic compounds in the US, she added. The decision was announced Thursday.
Russian personnel were given just 12 hours notice that their homes would be searched, even though in many cases these individuals live with their families and young children.
The US decision to shutter the properties “even exceeds” former President Barack Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomatic officials and seize Russian properties in New York and Maryland in 2016, the spokeswoman said.
“We express strong protest in relation to the actions of Washington, which ignore international law,” Zakhrova stated. “In accordance with diplomatic practices, we reserve the right to respond. That is not our choice. It was imposed on us.”
A US State Department spokesperson told Sputnik Friday that as of September 2, “the facilities will be closed, and entry or access to the properties will be granted only with permission of the Department of State.”
“The State Department will secure and maintain the properties in keeping with our responsibilities,” the spokesperson said, clarifying that Moscow will not be allowed to use the building for any diplomatic, consular or residential purposes.