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Russia slams US order to close San Francisco consulate as gross violation of law

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman noted that besides another "raider seizure" of expensive facilities of Russia’s state property, the US demands pose a direct threat to security of Russian citizens

MOSCOW, September 1. /TASS/. New restrictions against Russian diplomatic missions’ activity in the US are a gross violation of international law, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Friday.

"On August 31, the US authorities declared unprecedented measures on limiting the activity of Russian diplomatic and consular missions in the US," the diplomat said. Russia was ordered to shut down within two days one of largest consulates general, located in San Francisco, which provides visa, notary and other consular services to the citizens of Russia and the US living in big states.

The US authorities also ordered Russia to halt activity of its trade mission in Washington and its branch in New York. "The rules on travel of Russian diplomats and official delegations are significantly toughened," she said.

"This step is a gross violation of international law, including the United States’ commitments on the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations," said the statement published on the ministry’s website.

The diplomat said this measure even outstrips the Obama administration’s decision in December 2016 to seize Russian diplomatic property in the US.

Raider seizure

Zakharova noted that besides another "raider seizure" of expensive facilities of Russia’s state property, the US demands pose a direct threat to security of Russian citizens. The US special services planned to conduct a search on September 2 in the Consulate General in San Francisco, and also in the apartments of staff members living in the building and who have diplomatic immunity, and ordered them and their families, including children, to leave these apartments for 10 or 12 hours, she said.

"This is an invasion of the consulate and apartments of diplomatic staff, and they were kicked out so that they would not obstruct FBI agents," the diplomat said.

"By making the highly aggravating steps of this kind, the US continues to add tensions to the already tense atmosphere in our bilateral dialogue and to undermine the opportunities for cooperation, including the ones for the solution of pressing international problems," she said. Such measures harm tens of thousands of ordinary citizens of both countries who are far from politics. The US clearly shows that "it is not interested at all in developing ties between people."

"In fact, this is the continuation of the same policy of the Obama administration, in line with which in 2013 the FBI intimidated US participants of tours organized by Rossotrudnichestvo (Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation)," she said. In 2016, the State Department stripped of accreditation five Russian honorary consuls in different states who had worked to expand exchanges.

Strong protest

"We voice strong protest over Washington’s steps that ignore the international law and, as is common in diplomatic practice, we reserve a possibility to retaliate. This is not our choice. They impose it on us," the diplomat said.