12, July 2017
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow may retaliate moves by the United States last year to seize Russian diplomatic premises in America and eject a number of Russian diplomats.
The administration of former US president Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in December 2016 over allegations that Moscow had attempted to influence the US presidential election back then. Denying the allegations, Russia has previously called for the return of the premises.
During a visit to Austria on Tuesday, Lavrov told Russian media that the situation had lingered and was “outrageous.” “I believe that for such a great country like the United States of America, this advocate of international law, it’s just shameful to leave the situation in mid-air,” he said. The Russian foreign minister also said that Moscow was “now thinking of specific steps” to retaliate. He did not provide details, however.
When the Obama administration ejected the Russian diplomats and took over the premises, Russia did not take immediate reciprocal action and preferred to wait and see whether ties would improve under the administration of President Donald Trump, whose election victory Obama said had been aided by the alleged Russian meddling.
At a news conference with the European Union (EU)’s High Representative Federica Mogherini later in the day, Lavrov said once again that the US would face “retaliatory measures” if it did not heed Russia’s calls to return the diplomatic premises.
“If this does not happen, if we see that this step is not seen as essential in Washington, then of course we will take retaliatory measures,” he said. “This is the law of diplomacy, the law of international affairs, that reciprocity is the basis of all relations.”
According to Russia’s Izvestia daily, Moscow has been considering the expulsion of some 30 US diplomats and taking over two US diplomatic compounds near Moscow and St. Petersburg. A dacha complex owned by the US Embassy at Serebyany Bor outside Moscow may be one of those premises.
Citing Foreign Ministry sources, Izvestia said that the measures will take effect if the diplomatic row is not resolved at a meeting between Lavrov’s deputy Sergei Ryabkov and Thomas Shannon, a US under secretary of state, in St. Petersburg next week.