“What we see now is a gross violation of the Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on Consular Relations,” commented Nikolay Pukalov, the head of the embassy’s consular department. “The Russian side did not agree on stripping diplomatic status from our property in Seattle and did not give permission to American officials to enter our territory.”
The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the development “a hostile takeover” of the compound by the US.
The diplomatic building was evacuated earlier this week due to an order from Washington, which expelled 60 Russian diplomats and told the embassy to shut down the Seattle consulate in retaliation for the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.
After the diplomats left on Tuesday, they locked the building. US officials on Wednesday broke into the compound.
Later on Wednesday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that she believes there was nothing unlawful in the actions of the US authorities that broke into the Russian consulate. There was “no ‘invasion,’” she said in a Twitter post as she called Washington’s move “a firm, lawful response to Russia’s continuing outrageous behavior.”
Today, @StateDept officials walked through the property in Seattle to confirm it had been vacated. We will secure and maintain it in keeping with our responsibilities. No “invasion,” just a firm, lawful response to #Russia’s continuing, outrageous behavior. 2/2— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) April 25, 2018
The closure of Russia's Seattle consulate was the latest in a string of diplomatic mission reductions taken by both sides over the past years. The pretext for this particular expulsion was the British accusation that the Russian government ordered an assassination of a former double agent. London failed to provide any public proof of the allegation and instead launched an international campaign to punish Moscow, finding a most eager participant in Washington.
The US claimed that the 60 diplomats it expelled were Russian spies and that the consulate in Seattle was heavily used for espionage purposes. Similar justifications were used when Washington ordered the shutdown of Russian missions in San Francisco and New York in September 2017.
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