US 'completely & unlawfully seize' Russian SF consulate as blacksmith breaks lock (VIDEO)
A "Pop-A-Lock" van could be seen parked near the entrance to the Russian consular residence in San Francisco Monday, with a blacksmith in casual clothes having dealt with a lock at the residence.
Covered by a large piece of tarp, the blacksmith entered the premises and proceeded to its entrance while the gate was guarded by police officers. In broad daylight, the tarpaulin was then moved to cover the doors of the consular residence, with the blacksmith having apparently worked on the lock under its cover.
An "ordinary American" has approached Russian officials and "apologized for his government" saying he feels ashamed for the unlawful wrongdoings of his authorities, the Russian Embassy in the US tweeted Monday.
Russian diplomats were given an October 1 deadline to vacate the residence, following a directive by the US State Department ordering the closure of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco.
"Despite warnings, US authorities have not listened to the voice of reason and didn't give up on their unlawful intents. Today they completely seized all premises of Russia's Consulate General in San Francisco, with the residential section of the administrative building," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday, adding that American secret services have been "bossing around" in the building's restricted areas for a month.
A separate residence of the consul general has also been "seized," the statement added, saying that US actions are a "new flagrant violation of international law."
"We stress once again that we have never given and don't give US authorities the consent to remove immunity from Russia's diplomatic and consular property. We have not allowed and do not allow breaking in to our facilities," the ministry reiterated. It called the US agents at the premises "invaders" and their actions "an unprecedented lawlessness for the history of bilateral relations."
Saying that entrance doors were forced open and a new "total search" conducted inside, the ministry pointed out that Washington has, from December last year, "forcefully seized" five Russian diplomatic properties.
The recent actions show the US "agrees to the possibility of a similar treatment" in regard to its mission in Russia, the Foreign Ministry said, having "reserved the right to respond."
In late 2016, the outgoing Obama administration expelled Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland. Moscow chose not to retaliate at the time, hoping to mend ties during Donald Trump's presidency. However in July, the US Congress approved new sanctions against Russia, prompting Moscow to cut the staff at American missions in Russia.
On August 31, the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, as well as a consular annex in New York and a chancery annex in Washington, DC. Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, promised that Moscow would introduce "full parity" into its relations with Washington.