US forces closure of Russian consulate in San Francisco

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US forces closure of Russian consulate in San Francisco

The United States is ordering Russia to close two trade missions and its consulate in San Francisco. Washington says the move is retaliation for a Russian decision reducing the U.S. diplomatic presence in Russia.

CGTN’s Julia Lyubova reports.

Follow Julia Lyubova on Twitter @julialyubova

Moscow says it is disappointed in Washington’s decision forcing Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two of its trade missions in New York and Washington.

No diplomats are being expelled, however, and those who work in the facilities may be reassigned to other postings in the U.S.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a response from Moscow will follow. He also blamed the former Obama administration for a tit-for-tat exchange of sanctions.

“It was started to undermine Russian-American relationships and prevent Trump from coming up with constructive suggestions, to make the implementation of his pre-election promises to normalize the relationships with Russia extremely difficult,” according to Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivers a speech during an annual meeting with students of the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) in Moscow on September 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Washington says the move is a response to Russia’s “unwarranted” July 31 decision to reduce the number of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia by 755. Since then, the American embassy in Moscow says it has scaled back its visa services, and for the time being has stopped issuing visas to business travelers, tourists and students.

In December, former President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats as a punishment for Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. 

Russia did not respond initially to that expulsion, saying it would wait for Donald Trump to take office. In July, however, the U.S. Senate approved more sanctions against Russia. Moscow then announced it would force the American embassy to cut hundreds of jobs while also seizing a holiday property and a warehouse. 

Experts say the moves will likely lead to a stalemate in U.S.-Russia relations.

“With elections in sight…. presidential elections scheduled for March next year, I don’t think we should expect any improvement in conceivable future,” according to political analyst Maria Lipman.