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WASHINGTON, October 12. /TASS/. The antagonistic steps taken by US authorities run counter to their earlier assurances that they want to normalize relations with Moscow, the Russian Embassy in Washington said on Thursday citing Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov.
"A resolute protest has been conveyed to the US side following the removal of Russian flags from our diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington. Earlier, these buildings were actually seized by the US authorities in violation of the norms of international law, bilateral agreements and the US laws," Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya television channel.
"We consider these as highly unfriendly steps that run counter to previous official Washington assurances that it wants to normalize bilateral relations. Such steps only hamper Russian-US dialogue. The entire responsibility for the violation of norms of international relations rests only on Washington," he stressed.
"We demand that the systemic seizures of our diplomatic properties in the United States accompanied by offensive actions cease immediately, never to be repeated in the future," the Russian diplomat emphasized.
"We have been calling and are calling for establishing pragmatic bilateral cooperation with the United States. We are confident that such cooperation between the two great powers is in the interests of the entire international community," he said in an interview with the Rossiya television channel.
"We are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and bear special responsibility for international peace and security."
He said he thought a recent constructive meeting between Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart Rex Tillerson laid a good foundation to check Washington’s actions from which no one benefits and ponder about what is to be done together to bring bilateral relations to a higher level," the Russian diplomat noted.
"It’s saddening that today’s actions by the US undermine this confidence and optimism. But I still want to believe that official Washington will change its mind, draw the right conclusions from our statements and our relations will finally normalize," he stressed.
Russia’s embassy in the United States said earlier it had lodged a protest to the US side over removal of flags from the seized Russian diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington, and demanded the flags be immediately placed back.
Later on, a State Department official told TASS that the Russian flags were removed from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco by US authorities and it was done with due respect to Russia’s national symbols. "The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings," he said obviously referring to the consulate general and the consul’s residence in San Francisco.
On September 2, the US authorities shut down the Russian trade mission in Washington, DC and its branch in New York City. Besides that, they demanded that the Consulate General in San Francisco be closed and the consul general’s residence vacated. The US set a deadline of October 1 for diplomats from the consulate general in San Francisco to pack up and remove their belongings.
The US Administration says that the facilities have been stripped of diplomatic immunity. Nonetheless, they are still Russia’s state property, except the trade mission office in New York City, leased by Moscow.