NEW YORK, April 26. /TASS/. The fact that US officials had forced the locks to the Russian consulate general in Seattle, Washington, is a violation of international law, Nikolai Pukalov, the head of the consular department of Russia’s embassy to the United States, told TASS by phone on Wednesday.
"We see it as a gross violation of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations as well as of the US legislation banning intrusion into a private area," the Russian diplomat said.
"At midnight they put a police patrol outside the building and 09.15 a.m. arrived State Department officials, who broke into the premises after defeating the lock on the gates to the consulate. Afterwards, they forced the lock to the residence and are now outraging there," he said emphasizing that the Russian flag remains hoisted at the flagpole above the building.
"There is a group of people there," he continued. "Light is on in the building. <…> We are outside watching."
According to the diplomat, the same situation emerged after the Russian consulate general was closed in San Francisco on September 2, 2017.
"They are as alike as two peas," he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, diplomats working at the Russian Consulate General in Seattle left the city. Senior Consul Khalit Aisin told TASS that 23 people, including diplomats and their families, went from the city in eleven cars. The convoy headed for Washington.
The US ordered to seal off the building of the Russian consulate general at midnight on April 1. The Russian Consulate General in Seattle offered consular services on the territories of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, and Guam Island, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. Henceforth, Russian citizens will have to apply for consular assistance to the consular department of the Russian embassy in Washington, DC and to the consulates general in New York and Houston, Texas.
In late March, the US administration announced it was expelling 48 Russian diplomats and 12 diplomats from Russia’s permanent mission to the UN in New York. It also closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.
The move came in the wake of the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.