MOSCOW, October 25. /TASS/. The United States has returned the flags removed earlier from the building of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters on Wednesday.
"Yes, [they] have returned the flags and the archive from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco," he said answering a question on the matter. "However, all that was accompanied by a series of moves, which are totally unacceptable for us. We have lodged protest with the Americans on several occasions. As for the archives, some flagrant acts occurred, with their inviolability broken."
The senior diplomat also noted that the flags are one of the top state symbols. "And the way there were handled by the authorities of the host country is nothing but a provocation," he stressed. "The fact that they have been handed over to us is a natural thing, and it could hardly be otherwise. However, we continue to regard everything that had preceded that as something totally inadmissible that prompts rejection."
"In light of that, I would also like to note that the constant provocations and methods used by the American side in this sensitive sphere make us think that the US is potentially ready for similar moves concerning their consulates and diplomatic missions," the senior diplomat said. "We have not resorted to that, but international law allows for direct reciprocity, tit-for-tat moves, if some country is subjected to such unacceptable and hostile acts. We warn the American side that such things cannot be overlooked."
On September 3, the US authorities shut down the Russian trade mission in Washington, DC, and its branch in New York City. Also, they demanded that the Consulate General in San Francisco should be closed and the consul general’s residence be vacated. The US set a deadline of October 1 for diplomats from the Consulate General in San Francisco to pack 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’s office in New York City leased by Moscow.
On October 11, the US authorities removed Russian flags from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow lodged vehement protests with Washington demanding that the flags be immediately placed back.