White House Orders Russia to Close San Francisco Consulate, Other Annexes

by Garry Watts September 2, 2017, 0:23
White House Orders Russia to Close San Francisco Consulate, Other Annexes

Following allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election, President Barack Obama in December ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of two Russian diplomatic recreational retreats.

The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to close down a consulate in San Francisco in addition to diplomatic annexes in Washington and NY, citing the move as a response to an earlier Russian call for the U.S.to reduce embassy staff in Moscow by 755 State Department employees.

In ordering the closures, the U.S. State Department persisted with that line, arguing that it matched the number of consulates the two countries hold.

Putin ordered 755 American diplomatic personnel be cut and two diplomatic facilities in Moscow be shut down. She said no Russian diplomats are being expelled - the diplomats in those three building may be reassigned to other Russian consulates in the U.S.

To handle Russia's reduction in staff, the United States said it would need to scale back its visa services significantly, which is expected to hurt Russian business travellers, tourists and students.

The administration official told reporters on Thursday that "the president was being sarcastic" and that the diplomatic personnel - both Russian and American - affected by Russia's embassy cuts had been taken care of by the USA "in different ways".

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The State Department ordered Russian Federation to close three of its diplomatic facilities in the U.S.

The US announced Thursday it will shutter the Russian consulate in San Francisco, as well as annexes in Washington and NY, in response to mandated staff cuts at the US mission in Russia. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

The move by Washington was in response to Moscow's decision to cut American diplomatic staff in Russia to numbers equalling Russian staff in the United States and seizing two U.S. properties in Moscow. They are in New York, Seattle and Houston. Washington gave Moscow 48 hours to comply. The instruction was given by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov over the phone, who expressed regret over the "escalation of tensions".

The action follows Russia's demand earlier this month that the US reduce the number of personnel at its diplomatic missions in the country.

President Trump had not promised to retaliate for the expulsion of USA diplomatic staff from the country, but instead thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin after the order came down from Moscow.

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