“I am inclined to call what is happening ‘state hooliganism,’’’ Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday of the United States closing several Russian diplomatic facilities.
Ryabkov was referring to the seizure of Russian consulates in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., on Saturday by American officials. His boss, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, promised a “tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven solely by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States.”
The U.S. State Department inspected each consulate with Russian diplomatic personnel to “secure and protect the facilities,” denying Kremlin accusations that U.S. law enforcement agents threatened to break the doors down and raid them. However, the State Department did not comment on whether the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies were involved with securing the premises.
The State Department did concede that 48 hours was not enough notice for Russian diplomats and their families to evacuate their quarters, so “separate arrangements” were made to grant them more time. The Russians were so pleased by these accommodations that they apparently held a celebratory barbecue on top of the consulate building in San Francisco, using boxes of paperwork they just happened to have lying around as kindling. A thick column of black smoke could be seen rising from the roof for hours.
On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Moscow to present him with a letter that accused the American government of planning an “illegitimate search without the presence of Russian officials” at the Russian trade representative’s office in D.C. The letter even accused “U.S. special services” of plotting to plant “compromising objects” in the office.
The Russian trade representative himself, Aleksandr Stadnik, said the seizure of his office was “vandalism” and an illegal “attack on Russian property abroad.”
“The US authorities must stop the gross violations of international law and breaching the immunity of Russia’s diplomatic institutions. Otherwise, we reserve the right to reciprocate on mutual basis,” the letter warned.
On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged American authorities to “come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities,” or else take complete blame for “the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries.”
“Looking at the footage of searches at Russian diplomatic missions, I realize that this was some kind of an infernal buffoonery—foolish, illegal, and senseless,” sneered Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Sunday.