The Russian Foreign Ministry said U.S. officials had broken into residences at Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, and threatened retaliation over what it called an illegal act.
Russian staff left the consulate last month, after Washington ordered Moscow to vacate some of its diplomatic properties, part of a series of tit-for-tat actions during a thorny phase in bilateral relations.
Since then, U.S. officials had occupied administrative parts of the compound, but on Monday they entered residential areas that the departing staff had locked, the ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
|The Russian Foreign Ministry said U.S. officials had broken into residences at Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, and threatened retaliation over what it called an illegal act.
“Despite our warnings, the U.S. authorities did not listen to reason and did not give up their illegal intentions,” it said. “We reserve the right to respond. The principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy.”
Footage aired repeatedly on Russian state television showed what the broadcaster said were U.S. officials breaking locks that had sealed off parts of the compound and entering the buildings.
The “intruders” had taken over the whole premises including the consul general’s residence, the ministry said.
“Therefore, we understand that Americans, breaking into our diplomatic buildings, have de facto agreed that their missions in Russia may be treated likewise.”
A State Department spokeswoman denied on Tuesday that U.S. officials had broken into the residences, saying diplomatic security and representatives of the department’s Foreign Missions Office had walked through the spaces to ensure they had been vacated by an Oct. 1 deadline.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States had “graciously” given the Russian government more time to leave the buildings after discovering they had families and individuals “living in this sort of office-type space.”
”Once we learned that, we then offered them extra time there to pack up their items and leave,“ Nauert said. ”So we permitted them living in the apartments until Oct. 1. And their time was up.
“We did not break locks. No FBI (was) involved,” she added. “This is diplomatic security along with the Foreign Missions Office. What they do is they just walk through, look around. The purpose of that is to make sure that people are no longer living there. And they conducted and they completed it.”Reuters