Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the new hostile acts by the US against Russian diplomatic missions in the US
On August 31, the US authorities announced unprecedented restrictive measures against Russian diplomatic and consular missions in the US, requiring us to close, in a matter of two days, the consulate general in San Francisco, one of the largest Russian consulates in the US that provides visa, notary and other consular services to Russian and US nationals from across a number of densely populated states. Russia is also required to close without delay its Trade Representation in Washington, D.C. and its annex in New York. The US also tightened requirements regarding the mobility of Russian diplomats and official delegations.
This move is yet another blatant violation of international law, including the commitments undertaken by the US under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. It goes far beyond Washington’s previous initiatives, which included the expropriation by the Barack Obama administration in December 2016 of countryside retreats of the Russian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the UN, despite their immunity status.
Following the illegal seizure of high-value Russian state property, we are being pushed to sell them. On top of that, the latest demands announced by the US pose a direct threat to the security and safety of Russian citizens. The US secret services intend to conduct a search of the Consulate General in San Francisco on September 2, including the apartments of its staff who live in the building and have immunity. In this connection, they were ordered to leave the premises for a period of 10 to 12 hours with their families, including small children and even infants. This is an intrusion into a consular office and the residence of diplomatic workers, who are forced outside so as not to stand in the way of the FBI agents.
With these defiant moves, the US continues to worsen an already complicated bilateral climate and undermines opportunities for working together, including on solutions to urgent international issues.
It is especially dismaying that these measures will hurt tens of thousands of ordinary people from both countries who are far from politics. By stopping issuing visas to Russian nationals at its consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, and now depriving US citizens of the possibility to obtain Russian visas in San Francisco, the US clearly shows that it has no interest in promoting people-to-people ties. In fact, this builds on the Barack Obama administration’s policy whereby back in 2013 the FBI tried to intimidate Americans wishing to take part in trips to Russia sponsored by Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation, and in 2016 the US Department of State stripped of their credentials five Russian honorary consuls in various states, who were proactive in promoting social exchanges.
Russia strongly protests against Washington’s actions that defy international law, and reserves the possibility to take retaliatory action, as is customary in diplomatic affairs. This was not Russia’s choice. It was imposed on us.