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Lavrov slams US seizure of Moscow's diplomatic assets as being ‘robbed in broad daylight’

The Russian foreign minister hopes that "Russophobia in the [US] Congress will eventually wane"

MINSK, July 17. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has denounced the ongoing spat over Moscow’s diplomatic property in the US, which was closed to Russian diplomats, comparing it to being robbed in broad daylight.

"As for the crux of what you quoted, if it is so, then it is robbery in broad daylight. It turns out that some tough guys are commenting on this situation," he told reporters on Monday, touching upon the statements by high-ranking White House officials that the US was not going to give Russia its diplomatic property back without getting something in return."

"Is the source anonymous?" the minister asked. "That means they understand they have a guilty conscience."

"How is that: [they] seize the property that was vested [in Russia] by a bilateral intergovernmental ratified document and, when it comes to returning it, [they] act under the principle ‘what is mine is mine, what is yours we will share’?" Lavrov wondered. "Decent and well brought-up people do not behave in such way."

The Russian foreign minister hopes that "Russophobia in the [US] Congress will eventually wane." "I am confident that there are men of sense in the Trump administration who are perfectly aware that the decision to seize the diplomatic property and eject 35 diplomats with their families was taken by the Obama administration in a state of agony, when it didn’t know how to ruin our relations with Washington in such a way as to prevent the Trump administration from repairing them," he added.

"A zealous search for some covert Russian communications channels concerning what is happening in the US is not subsiding, to my deepest regret, and does not add confidence that we will be able to develop normal cooperation in international relations that all countries are interested in," Lavrov stressed.

What sparked the spat?

In late December 2016, then-Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia, declaring 35 Russian officials working at the embassy in Washington and the consulate in San Francisco persona non-grata and closing two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland. Access to these compounds was denied for all Russian officials. Russia has not retaliated yet.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that "if no actions are taken," Russia will reduce the number of its diplomats in the US and seize a compound and a warehouse from the American diplomatic mission in retaliation.

This issue is expected to dominate the talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.