‘Occupation’ of Russian diplomatic properties in US ‘blunt act of hostility’ – Foreign Ministry
Searches of the Russian premises began on Saturday, after the US State Department ordered the foreign ministry on August 31 to vacate the premises by September 2.
The FBI arrived in at least two vehicles to search the San Francisco Consulate. The minute the deadline expired, agents entered the Russian-owned diplomatic property, which in 2016 alone issued more than 16,000 tourist visas to American citizens.
Russian diplomats have posted photo and video evidence of the searches, which they call a “travesty of justice.”
“We regard the incident as a blunt act of hostility, a gross violation of international law by Washington, including the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The ministry called upon the US “to come to their senses and immediately return Russian diplomatic compounds.”
“Otherwise, the US will be responsible for the continuing degradation of relations between our countries, which largely affect global stability and international security,” the statement continued.
The Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations forms the basis for diplomatic immunity and defines the framework of relation between countries. It states that the premises of [any] mission “shall be inviolable” and the “agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.”
Moscow pointed out that all seized properties in New York, Washington, and San Francisco have diplomatic immunity.
“The US special services supported by armed police are now ‘hosting’ the occupied buildings,” the statement added.
Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's press secretary, said that "these steps will lead to further degradation of Russia-US relations." When asked about any potential retaliatory measures, Peskov urged to wait for a personal response from the Russian president.
Later, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told Rossiya 1 TV that the US State Department “expects” that Russia will sell its diplomatic real state property in San Francisco and Washington, DC, to the US government.
The State Department “did not just give us a hint, they said it openly that they expect us to sell these compounds to the US state,” Zakharova said, calling the actions of the State Department “unbelievable.”
US action creates ‘bad precedent’
“The US State Department is violating the Vienna Convention; this creates a bad precedent to international diplomacy,” Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, who served as a Greek ambassador in Canada in 2000-2004, told RT.
US searches of Russian premises is “a collapse of the international diplomatic system by what the Americans and the US government are trying to do,” Chrysanthopoulos said.
“I can’t see the reason why it is happening. The relations between the US and Russia are not bad. Some people in the US are trying to make [these relations] bad.”
This move “shoots any tendency to ameliorate diplomatic relations and ties” between Washington and Moscow, Chrysanthopoulos said, adding that it is “totally incomprehensible, very unfair and it’s not good for peace in this troubled world of today.”
According to Chrysanthopoulos, Moscow can raise the issue at the UN Security Council “as a violation of international law.”