15, July 2017
Russia says the US is sheltering “too many” spies at its embassy in Moscow, warning that it may expel some American diplomats amid a deepening diplomatic row between the two countries. “There are too many CIA and Pentagon intelligence employees under the roof of the American diplomatic mission whose activities do not correspond to their status,” Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying on Friday.
She also reminded that the public must have heard about the “adventures” of some of the US spies, adding that “everything was available to the public – wigs, disguises and installations with performances.” Zakharova was apparently referring to the January remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Moscow had foiled several intelligence activities involving US nationals working under diplomatic cover while wearing disguises, among them men dressing as women.
In one of the incidents, a disguised diplomat wearing a wig and false eyebrows penetrated into the US embassy after hitting the security officer and refusing to show his ID card. Elsewhere in her comments, Zakharova said Russia is prepared to expel US diplomats and shut down some American compounds if Washington fails to reopen two Russian recreational estates that were closed in the US.
In December 2016, former US president Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian officials from the US and seized two pieces of property belonging to the Kremlin. Washington said the measure was taken in response to Russia’s alleged hacking of US political groups during the 2016 presidential election, an accusation flatly denied by Moscow.
The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman warned that his country “will have to take reciprocal measures” if the issue of the confiscated compounds is not resolved. She further complained that US officials were not issuing visas to Russian diplomats to allow Moscow to replace the expelled employees.
Zakharova also expressed hope that the US will take “a more constructive approach” to resolve the dispute over the seized properties after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, met face-to-face for the first time on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg last week.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow may retaliate Washington’s measures. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow’s patience was running out in its diplomatic row with the US, saying Washington should either correct its 2016 decision to expel Russian politicians and “illegally” seize Russian compounds or wait for “measures of reciprocity.”