White House Orders Closure of Russian Consulate, 2 Annexes in US

"We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries", she said, noting that with action against Russian diplomatic facilities "both countries will remain with three consulates each".

The U.S. government will force Russian Federation to swiftly shut down three of its diplomatic buildings in America, including one in New York City, the State Department announced Thursday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday warned that Moscow may retaliate against a US order closing the Russian consulate in San Francisco but then appeared to extend an olive branch to President Donald Trump, saying the Kremlin was still eager to take him up on his pre-election promises to improve relations.

Lavrov defended Russia's decision to cut USA diplomatic staff as reciprocal reaction to the US expelling Russian diplomats last December.

His move came days after Congress passed legislation strengthening financial sanctions on Moscow over its alleged meddling in the USA 2016 presidential election and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. That action was taken following harassment of USA diplomats in Russia, as well as Russian interference in the US presidential election.

The latest United States move came as a Sep 1 deadline was reached for Washington to comply with a Kremlin demand to slash staff numbers at its Russian diplomatic mission by 755 personnel.

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The four Russian consulate employees in San Francisco - including a chef accused of being a spy by the US government - were ordered to leave the United States within 72 hours.

As detrimental as Russia's decision may be, the State Department doesn't think further knocking back Russian diplomatic presence in the US will cause undue harm. 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".

Back in Washington, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call that the United States would not be expelling any Russian personnel through this action, and that the Russian government could reassign its staff to other consulates or annexes. "But, as you know, it takes two to tango and so far we've been seeing our USA partners perform an individual break dance time and time again". Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov will likely meet in NY in September according to the State Department.

The consular annexes to be closed in NY and Washington contain Russian trade missions, the official said.

Despite the "extreme unfairness" of the action, Moscow should not respond "symmetrically", Leonid Slutsky said.

  • Sonia Alvarado