US authorities break into closed Russian consulate residence in Seattle (PHOTOS)
Video from the scene shows State Department personnel in plainclothes entering the yard and attempting to break the lock on the door of the residence. A later attempt appears to have been successful, as a locksmith could be seen opening the door and entering the premises. The Russian flag is still flying over the building.
“US authorities breaking into the consul-general’s residence in Seattle is a gross violation of diplomatic conventions,” the Russian Embassy in the US told RIA Novosti. Russia did not agree to remove diplomatic immunity from the property, and the attempted break-in is an “unfriendly step,” the embassy added.
By breaking into the consulate, the US is “violating international law,” the embassy said.
Consular personnel left the residence on Wednesday evening, in compliance with the deadline given last month by the Trump administration.
The Seattle consulate was ordered to close “due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing,” the Trump administration said on March 26, announcing the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the US.
The US acted on the urging of its British ally, with London blaming Moscow for the alleged chemical attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last month. Canada, Australia and most NATO countries followed suit, resulting in the expulsion of over 150 Russian diplomats altogether. Moscow has retaliated in kind.
Locksmiths hired by the State Department followed the same steps last October, when they broke into the Russian consulate in San Francisco, ordered shut by Trump in an escalating row with Moscow.
Expulsions began in December 2016, when the outgoing President Barack Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian properties in the US and expelled a number of diplomats, claiming Russia had meddled in the US presidential election. Moscow initially declined to retaliate, hoping to mend relations that soured under the Obama administration. However, when the US Congress overwhelmingly voted in favor of new sanctions against Russia in August 2017, Moscow responded by ordering the US diplomatic mission to downsize.
Democrats and much of the US mainstream media continue to insist that Trump “colluded” with Russia during the 2016 campaign, and no amount of “tough on Russia” behavior from the White House has sufficed to change their mind.
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