MOSCOW, October 12. /TASS/. The removal of Russian flags from the Consulate General in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington is the violation of a state symbol, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
Russia’s Embassy in the United States said earlier it had lodged a protest to the US side over the removal of flags from the seized Russian diplomatic facilities on Wednesday, and demanded the flags be immediately placed back.
"We view this as a desecration of Russia’s state symbol. We have already voiced a strong protest to the United States," Zakharova stressed. "Certainly, Russia gave no permission to take down the flags," she said, calling this "a hostile act of the US" against Russia’s diplomatic facilities.
"This was done by the people, who earlier intruded Russia’s territory, broke open the gates, the entry doors and since then have been bossing around there already not as raiders but as occupants," the diplomat said.
The diplomat slammed the US State Department’s statements that no one stripped Russia of its right to the property as "flagrant hypocrisy," stressing that the Russian staff members are not let there.
Over the past months, Russia’s representatives have been deprived of access to five Russian diplomatic facilities in the US, Zakharova said. "This has never been seen in the history of Russian-US relations."
"Besides the apparent encroachment on the flags, the Americans make no secret of the fact that they also rummaged through the papers left in the Consulate General," the diplomat said. "And that’s despite the fact that the consular archives enjoy immunity under the bilateral Consular Convention. They enjoy immunity always and everywhere even after the consulate halts its activity," she said.
On September, 3 the United States closed down Russia’s trade mission in Washington and its branch in New York and also demanded curtailing the activity of Russia’s consulate-general in San Francisco and vacating the residence of consul-general in that city in California.
The US authorities set October 1 as the deadline for the staff of the consulate-general in San Francisco to pack their bags.
The US Administration believes that the diplomatic immunity has been lifted from these facilities. In the meantime, they still remain Russian property except for the office of the trade mission in New York, which was used under a lease contract.
On Wednesday Russian flags were removed from the Russian trade mission in Washington and the building of the consulate-general in San Francisco, California.