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WASHINGTON, October 12. The US authorities have notified Russian diplomats that they are ready to return the state flags removed from Russian diplomatic missions in the US, a State Department official told TASS on Thursday.
"The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings. We have informed the Russian Embassy that we are happy to return the flags to the Russian government’s possession, at its convenience," the diplomat said.
The United States on September 3 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.
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the US authorities order to remove Russian flags from the seized diplomatic facilities was unacceptable.
"Lavrov said the US authorities’ order to remove Russian flags from our diplomatic facilities previously seized by them was unacceptable," The Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the phone call. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian top diplomat "confirmed Moscow’s determination to prepare legal cases in order to return the illegally seized Russian property".
The Russian foreign minister also said that "the US authorities’ ongoing arbitrariness runs contrary to Washington’s high-level statements expressing willingness to normalize bilateral relations which have hit an unprecedented low," the statement added.