WASHINTON, January 18. /TASS/. US State Department spokesman John Kirby maintained once again at a briefing on Tuesday that US diplomats were harassed in Russia, after being asked to comment on Russian foreign minister’s saying those claims were groundless.
"The only thing I would say, and is what we’ve said so many times before, that over the last year or plus we have seen an increase in the harassment of our diplomats," John Kirby said.
"And it is because of that increase in harassment, one of the reasons why, the president just in the last couple of weeks sanctioned some additional entities and individuals in Russia and declared persona non grata on some 35 Russian diplomats, and shut down two facilities which we know where we - which we know were - had intel - some intelligence purposes to them," he went on.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at his annual news conference on Tuesday that a number of US diplomats, working at the embassy in Moscow, have been prevented from conducting intelligence activities in Russia.
"They claim that during Barack Obama’s presidency, the US diplomats have been subject to harassment, but I believe these claims to be groundless," the Russian top diplomat noted saying that some episodes became public "as the Americans tried to present them as some kind of hunt for the US diplomats, but in fact things are completely different."
On December 29, Washington slapped new sanctions on Moscow over its supposed cyberattacks on US institutions. The restrictive measures announced on Thursday apply to some Russian companies, the Federal Security Service and the Russian General Staff’s Main Department and its senior officials.
In addition to that, US authorities declared 35 Russian diplomats persona non grata. Washington also informed Moscow that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian government.