Posted: 11:17 am ET
On August 31, the State Department announced that it is requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Closures need to be done by Saturday, September 2.
The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.
In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.
With this action both countries will remain with three consulates each. While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.
The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern. The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.
A senior official confirmed to BuzzFeed that that the U.S. presence is down to 455 in Russia, but apparently would not give a breakdown of who was let go.
A couple weeks ago, the New York Daily News citing Kommersant reported that Russia may be forced to close one of four consulates in the U.S. as part of an ongoing diplomatic tit-for-tat. Russia has consulates general in New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Three days ago, Russia MFA rep Maria Maria Zakharova reportedly said on television that the reduction of personnel at U.S. Mission Russia was not “absolutely not a Russian demand”, that it was an offer, a suggestion.
The July 27 statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it “reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting US’ interests on a basis of reciprocity.” In that same statement, it uses the word “suggest” but also “must.” There is no way to interpret that official statement as merely a suggestion for the U.S. Government
– Therefore, we suggest that our American counterparts bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, the consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, into strict correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff currently working in the United States, until September 1, 2017. This means that the total number of American diplomatic and consular office employees in the Russian Federation must be reduced to 455 people. In the event of further unilateral action on behalf of US officials to reduce the Russian diplomatic staff in the US, we will respond accordingly.
– Starting August 1, the use of all the storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the country house in Serebryany Bor will be suspended from use by the US Embassy.
The full statement is here.
Similarly, the Russian readout of the July 28 conversation between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary Tillerson said that “Sergey Lavrov emphasised that the decision to even out the number of employees in US and Russian diplomatic missions and to suspend the use of two properties by the US Embassy is the result of a series of hostile steps by Washington.”