Posted: 1:04 am ET
Last December, in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas, the State Department declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States “who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status.” The Department also informed the Russian Government that it would “deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.” (see USG Declares 35 Russian Officials Persona Non Grata, Imposes New Sanctions).
Last week, the Russian Embassy in D.C. tweeted that it is seeking the return of its diplomatic property ASAP.
WaPo reported on Wednesday that the Trump Administration was moving to return the Russian compounds in Maryland and New York.
Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.
Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.