Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 1 News List

US orders closure of Russian consulate in San Francisco


Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov speaks at the Moscow State University of International Relations yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The US has told Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco, as well as buildings in Washington and New York that house trade missions, the US Department of State said on Thursday, drawing criticism from Moscow after it cut the US’ diplomatic presence in Russia.

Last month, Moscow ordered the US to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half to 455 to match the number of Russian diplomats in the US after the US Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia.

The sanctions were imposed in response to alleged Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election and to punish Russia further for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“We believe this [Russia’s] action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the US had completed the reduction.

“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians,” the US has required the Russian government to close its San Francisco consulate and two annexes in Washington DC and New York by Sept. 2,” Nauert said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov of the closures in a telephone call on Thursday, a senior official of US President Donald Trump’s administration said.

Tillerson and Lavrov plan to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this month, the official said.

Lavrov expressed regret about Washington’s decision to Tillerson, the Russian ministry said.

“Moscow will closely study the new measures announced by the Americans, after which our reaction will be conveyed,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov yesterday spoke in stronger terms.

“We will have a tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven solely by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States,” Lavrov said in a televised meeting with students at Russia’s top diplomacy school.

He said that the new package of sanctions against Russia that Congress adopted last month not only hits Russia, but was also designed to “tie Trump’s hands, not let him use his constitutional powers to the full to make foreign policy.”

Additional reporting by AP

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