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Moscow warns US of tit-for-tat response to diplomatic property seizure

Moscow urges Washington to return confiscated Russian diplomatic property
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Yuri Smityuk/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, June 29. /TASS/. Moscow is urging Washington to return confiscated Russian diplomatic property, otherwise Moscow will be entitled to a take a "tit-for-tat response," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned on Thursday.

"In response to 15 Russian notes, the US Department of State refused to allow even a one-time visit by maintenance teams to check the current state of the buildings and life support systems there," the diplomat noted. "This sort of attitude means that all responsibility for any damage that will be caused to the seized Russian diplomatic property lies entirely on the shoulders of the US authorities, and we have told them about that on numerous occasions."

According to Zakharova, "for many years, even during the Cold War, there had never been any questions on the part of any administration or special services regarding the ownership and, in general, all of our country’s rights to these facilities."

"We also told our US counterparts that the only way to debunk suspicions of some plans for an anti-Russian provocation with imaginary spy equipment is to just grant us access to the facilities to make sure that there are no changes there, or, still better, to return our property without delay," Zakharova stated. "Otherwise, we reserve the right to a ‘tit-for-tat response’ on US property in Russia." I want to confirm once again that countermeasures are currently in the works."

Zakharova noted that reports by some US media, which alleged that ‘spy’ antennas had been dismantled at the Russian diplomatic properties in the US, were not true.

"Some US media outlets, beginning with the Washington Post, reported that traces of dismantled antennas, computers and other spy equipment had allegedly been found in the confiscated facilities owned by Russia in Washington and New York. They cited some FBI agents who conducted searches there," she said. "Concerning the equipment, all that is spy mania and unadulterated myths. Unfortunately, even US mainstream media outlets have been increasingly sinking to such levels more often."

According to Zakharova, Russia’s diplomatic property facilities in America have been breached by some US agents. "Judging by some indirect clues, we understand that access has been gained to these facilities, not by Russian diplomats but by someone from the US," the diplomat noted. "We have information that entry to the Russian diplomatic property in the US has indeed been accessed," she emphasized.

In late December 2016, the Obama administration slapped new sanctions on Russia declaring 35 staff members of the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in San Francisco persona-non-grata and closing two Russian compounds in the States of New York and Maryland. The Russian personnel’s access to these compounds was closed on December 30. Washington linked these sanctions with cyber attacks against US political institutions, blaming Russia for carrying out these attacks.