Alwaght- Russia has condemned the occupation of its diplomatic properties in the US as a “blunt act of hostility”.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Washington is violating international law and the Vienna Convention by the move.
Searches of the Russian premises began on Saturday, after the US State Department ordered the foreign ministry on August 31 to vacate the premises by September 2.
The FBI arrived in at least two vehicles to search the San Francisco Consulate. The minute the deadline expired, agents entered the Russian-owned diplomatic property, which in 2016 alone issued more than 16,000 tourist visas to American citizens.
On August 31, Washington demanded that Moscow close down it’s Consulate-General in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington, as well as its New York branch, by September 2. The US says that the building’s diplomatic immunity expired at 14:00 on Saturday (21:00 Moscow time).
US violating Vienna conventions on diplomatic immunity
“We regard the incident as a blunt act of hostility, a gross violation of international law by Washington, including the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The ministry called upon the US “to come to their senses and immediately return Russian diplomatic compounds.”
“Otherwise, the US will be responsible for the continuing degradation of relations between our countries, which largely affect global stability and international security,” the statement continued.
The Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations forms the basis for diplomatic immunity and defines the framework of relation between countries. It states that the premises of [any] mission “shall be inviolable” and the “agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.”
In a separate statement on Sunday, Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokeswoman said the searches at Russian diplomatic facilities in the US were "an infernal buffoonery" that insulted the dignity of those ordered to conduct them in the first place.
"Looking at the footage of searches at Russian diplomatic missions, I realize that this was some kind of an infernal buffoonery - foolish, illegal and senseless," Maria Zakharova said.
On Saturday, Russian diplomats worked to vacate three properties in the US, including the six-story consulate in San Francisco, complying with the US order which was issued in retaliation for Moscow cutting the American diplomatic presence in Russia. The move by Russia came following congressional approval of tougher sanctions against Moscow.
Deteriorating US-Russia ties
US Russia relations have deteriorated over the last few years, with Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula reunification with Russia in 2014 with over 96 percent of its population approving the move in a referendum. The other low point in Moscow-Washington ties was the claims that Russia meddled in the US presidential elections in 2016. This new battle of diplomatic expulsions began last December when President Obama kicked out 30 Russian diplomats from the US and seized Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland to retaliate for Moscow’s election interference.
Back to cold war?
The ongoing tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and closures of diplomatic facilities resemble that era not just in the tensions, but in the tactics.
Diplomatic and other expulsions were relatively common during the Cold War, when the US and the Soviet Union faced off as the world’s two superpowers with opposing ideologies.