TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The disputes between US and Russia diplomatic confrontation entered a new phase after the US, in a tit for tat move, seized control of three diplomatic posts vacated by Russia following the Kremlin demand for decrease of American diplomatic staff in Russia.
The Kremlin has accused Washington of bullying tactics and claimed that FBI officials threatened to break down the door to one of the facilities during the process of vacation.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it had summoned Anthony Godfrey, a deputy chief at the US Embassy in Moscow, over the planned "illegal inspection" of a Russian diplomatic building in Washington.
The US State Department denied the claim and said the posts were inspected in walk-throughs with Russian officials, and not forcibly searched as implied in the statement by Russia's Foreign Ministry.
The compound in Washington was one of three that were shuttered as the US and Russia have engaged in a diplomatic tit-for-tat over the past several months. The other two diplomatic buildings ordered closed are in San Francisco and New York.
Prior to these developments, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday had warned that Russia may respond "toughly" to its consulate's closure.
Lavrov's rhetoric shows that closure of Russia compounds in the US is not end of the game that started from the US presidential election in October 2016.
The US formally accused Russia of running an espionage operation intended to influence the US presidential election in a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security released on October 7, 2016.
The Obama administration on December 29, 2016, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and seized two compounds belonging to the Russian embassy in New York State and Maryland in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. US officials accuse Russia of using the two compounds for espionage and called the expelled diplomats intelligence operatives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 30, 2016 said Moscow won’t retaliate against the expulsions for now and will wait to see US policy under the Trump administration. Instead, Putin invited the children of US embassy staff in Moscow to a New Year’s party at the Kremlin. Trump, then president-elect, on Twitter called Putin's decision to wait a “great move,” adding that he "always knew he was very smart."
The US Senate on July 27, 2017 passed a congressional bill approving sweeping new sanctions against Russia over its alleged election meddling. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, setting up a challenge to Trump, who has said he opposes it.
In reaction Putin on July 31, ordered the US to cut 755 staff from its diplomatic presence in Russia by September 1, citing the new sanctions bill and the Obama-era expulsions. Russia also closed a summer house and some storage warehouses belonging to the American embassy in Moscow.
Trump signed the Russian sanctions bill into law on August 2 and ended the hope for improvement of relations between Washington and Moscow in his tenure.