Kremlin plans lawsuit over US closure of Russian diplomatic offices

UPDATE — 9/11, 6:17 p.m. EDT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Monday that the Kremlin had asked the U.S. Department of State to keep as many of its diplomats in Russia as Moscow is allowed to have in America.

“If the U.S. makes parity a criterion, we will bring those conditions in full accordance with what is called parity,” he told reporters in Amman, Jordan.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “true parity” would mean allowing only 300 U.S. diplomats in Russia.  Lavrov has said the Kremlin will allow 455 American envoys, which is the total number of Russian diplomats in the U.S., including UN staff.

 

Charging a “violation of international law,” the Russian Federation is preparing a lawsuit over the U.S. State Department’s order to close three of its consular offices on American soil.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov informed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday of the forthcoming litigation. Speaking via phone, Lavrov and his U.S. counterpart discussed global issues before turning to the diplomatic spat.

Describing the nature of the conversation, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement read:

“When discussing bilateral relations, Mr Lavrov pointed out that the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the United States by US authorities represents a gross violation of international law. The Minister drew Secretary Tillerson’s attention to President Putin’s statement at a news conference following the BRICS summit in Xiamen about our country’s plans to initiate court proceedings in response to Washington’s unlawful actions.”

On Thursday, the U.S. gave Russian diplomatic personnel 72 hours to vacate premises in New York and Washington, and ordered the San Francisco consular office closed by Saturday, Sept. 2.

The State Department later confirmed FBI agents had entered all three properties after Russian staff had left.  State has also confirmed two other Russian diplomatic properties in Washington, D.C., and New York ordered closed in December 2016 were the subject of FBI searches.

Responding on his own to the U.S. action when meeting reporters in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin, who had earlier hinted at legal action, referred to the U.S. action Tuesday as “boorish,” and said:

“As for our buildings and facilities, this is an unprecedented thing,” Putin said. “This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. Therefore, for a start, I will order the Foreign Ministry to go to court – and let’s see just how efficient the much-praised U.S. judiciary is.”

Mr. Putin later stated he would consider further cuts to American diplomatic staff manning posts in Russia.

Responding to the Kremlin’s threat, an anonymous senior State Department official issued a statement saying international law requires consent of the host country to allow foreign nations to establish diplomatic compounds, which the U.S. has revoked for Russia’s San Francisco location.

 

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