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1 Aug, 2017 03:11

Moscow denies banning US diplomats from their compound ahead of deadline

Russia has not barred US diplomatic staff from retrieving their belongings from the suburban residence at Serebryany Bor on the outskirts of Moscow, a foreign ministry source said, refuting claims that access to the recreational compound had been denied ahead of the deadline to vacate the premises.

On Monday, American embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson told RIA and Reuters that US diplomatic staff had been blocked from entering the Serebryany Bor recreational compound for two days, despite being allowed to use the so-called Dacha until noon Tuesday.

The accusations by the US diplomatic staff is a “deliberate provocation,” a source from the Russian foreign ministry told RIA after the news agency reached out for an official comment.

On Friday, following the US Congress’ approval of new sanctions against Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry told Washington to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people by September 1. Moscow has also ordered Washington to suspend the use of a warehouse and surrender the Serebryany Bor Dacha by August 1.

The source explained that the US embassy sent cargo trucks to a property located on a national reserve territory, where any industrial size vehicles are not allowed without proper clearance.

The source noted that the Americans, “simply did not bother to inform the Moscow department of environmental protection in advance that they were going to send three large trucks there.”

Furthermore, on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry urgently arranged for special vehicle access with the environmental protection agency for American staff, but the US side appears to have deliberately left the vicinity of the compound.

“At the entrance to the reserve, the park security workers wanted to hand out permission slips to the embassy staff to pass through,” the source said, noting that the US team simply “turned around and drove away,” apparently after receiving orders from headquarters.

“As far as we know, they are going to return on Tuesday morning, but American diplomats continue to tell the media that they were supposedly driven away,” the ministry’s source concluded.