Russian diplomatic properties in United States 'inviolable'

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The U.S. State Department on Thursday ordered Russia to close the three facilities by Saturday in retaliation for the Russian decision in July to cut the number of U.S. diplomatic staff by 755 people and seize two U.S. properties in Moscow.

In Moscow, the Russian government claimed that US officials were planning to search both the consulate and apartments used by their diplomats on Saturday, though there were no indications from the USA suggesting that was the case.

A top USA diplomat in Moscow was summoned to Russia's Foreign Ministry Saturday, as officials complained that the American government was planning to search its shuttered trade mission office in Washington.

Alexander Stadnik, Russia's trade representative in Washington, told reporters off camera Saturday that all Russians have left the city's trade annex and documents were moved to the Russian Embassy.

The dispute began when former US President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in December over allegations of Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

The official said Russian Federation will no longer be permitted to use these facilities for diplomatic or consular purposes and the state department will control all access to the three buildings, along with the responsibility for securing and maintaining them.

A day earlier, black smoke was seen billowing from the chimney at the consulate as the Russians rushed to meet the Saturday deadline, and workers could be seen hauling boxes out of the stately building.

"We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of global law", the Russian foreign ministry said of the USA order, which was made in late August in retaliation for Moscow cutting the United States' diplomatic presence in Russia.

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You simply can not have these figures from the civil war in town squares and in universities for our children to see. "I started looking around at other times in our history when we've unfortunately fallen back to these things".

Responding to online speculation over the cause, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said "emergency conservation of the building" had been underway.

"If Russia's missions are standard diplomatic properties then they are inviolable under the VDR [Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations] signed by the US", Assange wrote on his Twitter account.

Russian Federation accused the US of trying to break down the door to the building while conducting the alleged search.

Russian Federation has maintained a diplomatic presence in San Francisco since 1852.

"The facilities will be closed, and entry or access to the properties will be granted only with permission of the Department of State. We have nothing further to announce, at this time", the official said. "They were burning something in their fireplace", she said. "It was imposed on us".

"We will have a tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven exclusively by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States", Lavrov said in a televised meeting with students at Russia's top diplomacy school. The State Department said merely that it planned to "secure and maintain" the properties and that Russian Federation wouldn't be allowed to use them for "diplomatic, consular, or residential purposes" any longer.

It's the latest in a series of tit-for-tat moves following USA allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Also, it just so happens to be Russia's oldest diplomatic mission in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

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