Russia Threatens Retaliation against US over ‘Outrageous’ Seizure of Diplomatic Compounds

A Russian diplomatic compound, seized by the United States in December 2016 in connection with suspected Russian hacking activities sits abandoned in Upper Brookville, New York USA, 10 July 2017. Photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov has called ‘outrageous’ the seizure of two Russian diplomatic properties by the US government at the end of Obama administration.
  • Moscow is considering retaliatory measures over the ongoing closure of its two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland.
  • It is reported to be eager to regain control over the two compounds which according to US authorities and media were hotbeds for Russian spies.
  • Putin did not expel US diplomats at the time Obama did in hope of building a better relationship with his successor, Donald Trump.

Russia is considering retaliatory measures against the United States over the seizure of two of its diplomatic facilities on American soil, which were shuttered at the end of Barack Obama’s Administration, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov has announced.

In early June, the US government denied reports it had reached an agreement with Russia to return to it the two diplomatic compounds in question — one in Maryland and one in New York – to Russia.

At the end of December 2016, after receiving intelligence information that Russian President Vladimir Putin meddled in the US elections through hacking attacks, then US President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Russia’s intelligence apparatus and expelled 35 diplomats.

Those sanctions were in addition to sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US, the EU, and other Western governments since 2014 over Russia’s encroachments against Ukraine, namely, the Crimea annexation and the war in Donbass.

Among other things, they included shutting down two compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York, “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes”, and declaring 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” persona non grata.

As a result, the US authorities barred Russian access to the two Moscow-owned “recreational compounds.”

The 45-acre property at Pioneer Point near Centreville, Maryland, was purchased by the Soviet Union government in 1972, and the 14-acre property on New York’s Long Island was purchased by the Soviet government in 1954.

In January 2017, the US intelligence community voiced its conclusions that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hackers to use cybercrime in order to sway the 2016 US vote in favor of Donald Trump, to the detriment of his rival Hillary Clinton.

Also in January, a leaked dossier authored by a former MI6 agent alleged that Moscow had compromising materials on Trump that could be used to blackmail him.

Trump’s positive comments about Russian leader Putin both before and after he assumed office as President of the United States have caused additional concerns.

The FBI, as well as the intelligence committees of both houses of the US Congress, are presently investigating whether Trump’s associates were in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 US presidential elections.

In June, the US introduced new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and Crimea, a “pointless” move, according to Moscow.

A 45-acre Russian diplomatic compound, seized by the United States in December 2016 in connection with suspected Russian hacking activities sits abandoned on the banks of the Corsica River near Centreville, Maryland USA, 10 July 2017. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Tit-for-Tat Steps’

Moscow is mulling tit-for-tat steps in response to the ongoing seizure of its diplomatic mansions in the United States, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Tuesday, as cited by state-run news agency TASS.

According to Russia’s top diplomat, the situation with the two seized Russian diplomatic compounds in the US is “outrageous”

However, the issue of how Russia might decide to retaliate against the US should not be discussed in public with mass media, Lavrov stated.

“We are thinking about particular steps now. I do not believe this should be discussed in public, with all respect for the mass media,” he said.

“This situation is outrageous. I believe it’s a shame on such a great country as the United States, the international law advocate, to leave the situation in a limbo,” Russia’s Foreign Minister elaborated.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared that Moscow’s patience with Washington was running out, since the US has been dragging its feet on Russia’s confiscated diplomatic properties.

He did say, however, that it was up to Russia’s Foreign Ministry to decide when to impose tit-for-tat measures.

“As a rule, we have spoken about the principle of reciprocity. As for Russia’s patience on that matter, it is running out, that has also been mentioned at various levels. As for nuances, this is rather a matter for our foreign ministry,” Peskov told journalists.

He blamed the “outrageous” move on the administration of former US President Barack Obama which “wanted to poison Russian-American relations to the maximum and do everything to put the Trump administration in a trap.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA Novosti news agency that “there are several response options and a harsh reaction is being prepared.”

Even though at the time when the US expelled the Russian diplomats – said to be intelligence officers, according to US media – the Kremlin refrained from tit-for-tat expulsions, now Russian newspaper Izvestiya has reported Moscow may be expelling 30 US diplomats and seize some US property in the Russia.

President Vladimir Putin at the time ruled out kicking out US diplomats, a move that was interpreted as Moscow’s hope to build ties with the Trump administration, and even invited US diplomats’ families to a party in the Kremlin.

However, Moscow is now said to be keen to regain its properties in the US and the subject was on the agenda of Putin’s first face-to-face meeting with Trump in Hamburg, according to the Kremlin.

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