The United States Ambassador to Russia John Tefft said that all of Washington’s actions in closing the Russian consulate building in San Francisco and the trade mission offices in Washington and New York were done in accordance with legislation.
In a joint interview with Radio Svoboda and Voice of America, Tefft refuted the rumors that the Americans had used force to break into the consulate building and search it.
“Nobody broke down doors. Nobody put undue pressure on people. It was all done very, very carefully,” the ambassador said.
He added that US public officials inspected the building in San Francisco together with the Russian diplomatic personnel in order to ensure that the premises were secure and that the Russian authorities had vacated it.
The Ambassador underlined that the U.S. Government taking away the consulate building was in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – which Moscow accused Washington of violating.
According to him, it is hypocrisy for Russia to criticize this step by Washington. When Russia announced a reduction in US diplomatic staff in the country, it referred to parity of diplomatic staff numbers, since the US had more diplomatic staff in Russia than Russia in the US. When Washington invoked the same concept of parity with reference to the number of consulates, closing one of Russia’s four since the US only had three, Moscow was outraged. “Parity is parity,” the Ambassador said.
In addition, he refuted the Russian Foreign Ministry’s claim that Moscow initially only “suggested” that the US cut back on its diplomatic staff in Russia. “We were told to do that. This was not something which was negotiated,” assured Tefft, who will soon complete his term as Ambassador to Russia.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the US’s actions towards the Russian diplomatic facilities “boorish” and “unprecedented”, stating that Russia retains the right to further reduce the number of US diplomatic personnel in Russia, although it would not take such a step yet.
American officials said earlier that the US did not use any unlawful diplomatic or legal measures when instructing the Russians to leave the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, as well as the two diplomatic buildings in Washington and New York, which had served as trade representative offices until September 2.
In August Moscow instructed the US to reduce its number of diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 by September 1. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that this would mean reducing Russian Federation personnel by 755 members. Russia did this in response to new US sanctions on account of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
US-Russian relations have also deteriorated due to Russia’s interference in the US Presidential elections in 2016.