US Government Disproves Reports It Is to Restore to Russia Shuttered Diplomatic Compounds

A satellite shot of the 45-acre Russian compound at Pioneer Point near Centreville, Maryland, purchased by the Soviet Union government in 1972. Image: Google Earth

  • US government has not reached any new agreements with Russia on its sanctions against the latter, the US State Department says.
  • It has thus disproved reports the Trump Administration was considering returning two diplomatic compounds on US soil to Russia.
  • Compounds in question are located in New York and Maryland.
  • They were acquired by the Soviet Union government in the 1950s and 1970s.
  • Both spots were shuttered by US President Barack Obama in December 2016 in retaliation for Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US elections through hacking.
  • Shuttering of the compounds was part of a wider sanction package including the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence officers serving as diplomats.

The United States has reached no agreements with Russia to return to it two diplomatic facilities on American soil that were shuttered at the end of the administration of former President Barack Obama, the US Department of State has announced.

The State Department has thus disproved media reports claiming the US government was considering reinstating the two compounds — 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.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov complained that Moscow had seen no breakthrough in its relations with America in the four months since the new US President Donald Trump took over.

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of starting an arms race through a network of missile defense systems in various locations such as Korea and Alaska.

In early May, Trump had an eyebrow-raising meeting in the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Sergey Kislyak during which he revealed to the Russians classified information, as he himself has confirmed.

The reports have been denied by Russia, with Russian President Putin mocking the United States and declaring that it was “developing political schizophrenia”.

‘Really Bad Idea’

The United States has reached no agreements with Russia on modifying the American sanctions against Moscow, including with respect to the two shuttered diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland, the US Department of State said on Wednesday night, as cited by NBC News.

Earlier on Wednesday, The Washington Post had reported that the Trump administration was taking steps to hand back the compounds which former President Obama ordered shuttered in retaliation for Russia’s alleged orchestration of hacking attacks designed to interfere in the presidential election.

“The US and Russia have reached no agreements. The next meeting will be in June in St. Petersburg,” R.C. Hammond, senior communications adviser for the State Department, said on Wednesday night.

It is reminded that in January, newly the President-elect Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal in January that he intended to maintain the sanctions on Russia “at least for a period of time.”

A senior US official who deals with foreign policy told NBC News that he had not heard about the purported initiative to restore Russia’s rights at the two compounds.

He said, however, that the Trump Administration is intent on improving relations with Russia despite investigations into alleged Russian interference.

Nonetheless, in his words, if reports of the initiative are accurate, it would likely be intended as a gesture of goodwill to Moscow. He personally described it as a “really bad idea.”

After meeting last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called allegations that Russia interfered with the election “a serious issue” that had been “fairly well established in the United States.”

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