'Not our way:’ Moscow won't break into US diplomatic compounds in case of closure
Last week, US officials called a locksmith to break into the sealed Russian consulate in Seattle, which was vacated by Russian diplomats after Washington ordered it closed, citing its proximity to a US Navy base and a Boeing construction site. Plainclothes US Department officials held a large blue tarp over the consulate’s entrance as the locksmith was gaining access to the building that had the Russian flag still flying over it.
Moscow, which did not agree to remove the diplomatic immunity from the compound, vocally protested what it labelled as “a gross violation of diplomatic conventions.”
But Russia is not planning to give the US a taste of its own medicine, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Sunday, adding that Moscow will not stoop to making a bizarre spectacle out of a US mission’s closure.
“If you imply that Russian diplomats or any other officials will bring blue cloth to the US embassy and use it to do some manipulations with the US property, or even the rented premises, then no, this is not who we are,” Zakharova said during a popular Russian political talk show on Sunday.
Instead, Moscow is preparing to file lawsuits with US courts over the expropriation of the Russian diplomatic compounds. Slamming the US authorities’ decision to effectively raid the Russian property, Zakharova remarked that the manner in which it was done was unprecedented.
“I have never seen in my life for ‘lawful actions’- this is according to our State Department colleagues - to be carried out in such a creepy way,” Zakharova said.
While Moscow threatens the US with legal action, the State Department has said it sees nothing wrong in the conduct of its officials. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the move “a firm, lawful response to Russia’s continuing outrageous behavior.”
The Russian consulate closure was a part of the punitive measures enacted by the US over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal on March 4 in Salisbury, UK. The US, which sided with the UK in pinning the blame for the increasingly murky incident on Moscow, kicked out 60 Russian diplomats, claiming they were covert intelligence operatives. In a tit-for-tat response, Russia expelled the same number of US diplomatic staff and withdrew permission for the work of the US consulate general in St. Petersburg.