Russia has released video of US personnel searching its diplomatic posts, calling the act ‘blatantly hostile’ and ‘illegal’ as diplomatic tensions rise.
The Russian Foreign Ministry released the video of search inside its San Francisco Consulate on Saturday, as the US shut down and seized that mission and two others in Washington DC and New York.
The seizures came in an escalating tit-for-tat between the two nations, following the expulsion of some 775 US diplomats from Russia in July.
The Kremlin accused Washington of threatening to ‘break down the entrance door’ to one of the facilities, and said that the FBI was ‘clearing the premises.’
Not true, said a senior State Department official, saying in a statement to reporters on condition of anonymity: ‘These inspections were carried out to secure and protect the facilities and to confirm the Russian government had vacated the premises.’
The US on Saturday took control of the Russian consulate in San Francisco (pictured) as well as two other diplomatic facilities in Manhattan and Washington, DC
Members of the Consulate General of Russia load furniture into a vehicle in San Francisco, California on Saturday before the US takeover of the facility
The video released by the Russian Foreign Ministry shows American officials making cursory inspections of Russia’s consulate in San Francisco. One shot shows a man casually dressed in a plaid shirt and baseball cap looking around in an overhead storage space for a few seconds
The video released by the Russian Foreign Ministry shows American officials making cursory inspections of Russia’s consulate in San Francisco.
Russia claimed that the men were with the FBI, something that the State Department declined to comment on.
The State Department declined to answer additional questions about whether the premises might be searched for intelligence-gathering purposes now that the Russians have left.
One shot shows a man casually dressed in a plaid shirt and baseball cap looking around in an overhead storage space for a few seconds.
Another shot shows a man in a shirt and tie knocking on doors in what are presumably residencies attached to the consulate.
Softening the original order, the US said it had made ‘separate arrangements’ to give families living at the consulate ‘sufficient time’ to pack their belongings and vacate apartments on the consulate grounds.
Another shot shows a man in a shirt and tie knocking on doors in what are presumably residencies attached to the consulate
The video shows the US official knocking on doors and entering the residences for a few seconds each, glancing around before moving on
The video shows the US official knocking on doors and entering the residences for a few seconds each, glancing around before moving on.
The US wouldn’t disclose how long the Russians would have to move out of the residential part of the consulate, other than to say that Moscow had been informed of the new deadline.
In the meantime, the State Department will control all access to the properties, along with the responsibility for securing and maintaining them, the official said.
Along with the San Francisco Consulate General, the US also took control of Russia’s consular annex in Manhattan and the Trade Representation building of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.
Moscow has accused the US of violating international law by shuttering the facilities, a charge the US disputes.
The Russian consulate annex in Manhattan was also taken over by the US on Saturday
A member of the US State Department police is seen inside the compound of the Trade Representation building of the Russian Federation in Washington DC on Saturday
On Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the US deputy chief of mission in Moscow, Anthony Godfrey, to deliver a formal protest note calling the purported trade office search an ‘unprecedented aggressive action.’
‘We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law,’ the Russian foreign ministry said.
‘We urge the U.S. authorities to come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities,’ the ministry added on its website. ‘Otherwise the USA will bear total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries.’
People stop to watch black smoke coming from the chimney of the Consulate-General of Russia Friday in San Francisco. The smoke was seen billowing from the consulate building a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure
On Saturday night, lights shined brightly on several floors of the consulate in San Francisco and some windows were wide open.
A day earlier, black smoke was seen billowing from the chimney at the consulate as the Russians rushed to meet the Saturday deadline, and workers could be seen hauling boxes out of the stately building.
The closures on both US coasts mark perhaps the most drastic diplomatic measure by the United States against Russia since 1986, near the end of the Cold War, when the nuclear-armed powers expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats.
And it comes amid some of the broadest strains in their relationship ever since. The two countries have clashed over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, as well as over American allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.
Workers carry boxes out of the Russian consulate in San Francisco on Friday