The U.S. State Department announced on Thursday that Russia will be required to close its consulate in San Francisco, as well as two annex buildings in Washington, D.C. and New York City, as a result of the Kremlin’s decision to force U.S. diplomats out of Russia. Moscow now has until Saturday to close the facilities in question.
The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” Nauert said. “These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.”
Another senior State Department official also said this decision was made in the “spirit of parity,” matching the Kremlin’s forced reduction in the American ambassadorial footprint within their own nation, adding that despite the tensions, the U.S. still hopes to ultimately reduce the tensions between Russia and the United States.
“Our goal is really to find a way to get to better relations between our two countries,” the official said.
The United States first forced Russia to close two compounds in December, when President Barack Obama also ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in conjunction with economic sanctions as a result of Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S. to reduce its number of diplomatic personnel within the nation by 755 people. The U.S., however, was permitted to choose which operations and locations to close in support of this mandate. There are now fewer than 455 American diplomatic personnel working within the Russian state.
Now, with another slew of Russian facilities closing in the U.S., both Russia and the U.S. now retain three consulates in each nation, though Russia will still possess more annexes on U.S. soil than vice versa.
While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.” Nauert said.
“The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern,” she said. “The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a statement saying he “regrets” the U.S. decision, adding that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will review the State Department’s statement and issue a formal response at a later time.
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