Russia Takes Over US Compound In Moscow In Retaliation Over Sanctions

Russian authorities on Wednesday took over a summer-house compound in Moscow leased by the US embassy, five days after the Kremlin ordered Washington to slash its diplomatic presence in Russia.

In retaliation for new US sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the United States to cut around 60 percent of its diplomatic staff in Russia by Sept. 1, and said Moscow would seize a dacha country villa used by US embassy staff and a warehouse.

US employees cleared out the dacha on Tuesday and a Reuters journalist who visited the property on Wednesday saw a large metal padlock securing the front gate.

The one-storey building and courtyard, previously used by diplomatic staff at weekends and to host embassy parties, was empty and cleared of barbecue equipment and garden furniture.

Two policemen in a car in front of the main entrance said they had been instructed to guard the property and did not expect any visits from US or Russian officials.

“I don’t know when this situation will change,” one of the policemen said.

Maria Olson, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. She was quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency as saying the embassy had retrieved all its possessions from the villa, and from the warehouse.

Putin said on Sunday Russia had ordered the United States to cut 755 of its 1,200 diplomatic staff in its embassy and consular operations, though many of those let go will be Russian citizens, with the United States allowed to choose who leaves.

The ultimatum issued by the Russian leader is a display to voters at home that he is prepared to stand up to Washington – but is also carefully calibrated to avoid directly affecting the US investment he needs, or burning his bridges with US President Donald Trump.

One local Russian employee at the embassy, who declined to be named when speaking to the media, said staff were still in the dark about their future employment.

“They say they will have to cut a lot of jobs – not just diplomats and technical staff, but also in the ancillary services, including drivers, janitors and cooks,” he said. “I hope I won’t be in trouble, but who knows.”

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Russian authorities on Wednesday took over a summer house used by the American embassy in Moscow — even cleaning out the barbecue equipment and garden furniture — as the Kremlin begins to carry out President Vladimir Putin’s demand that the US cut its diplomatic staff in the country, according to a report.

    The one-story building, which was used by diplomatic staff for weekend getaways and embassy parties, was emptied of equipment and US personnel, Reuters reported.

    The front gate was secured by a large metal padlock.

    Two police officers standing at the main entrance said they had been instructed to guard the property and did not expect to see US or Russian officials, Reuters said.

    “I don’t know when this situation will change,” one of the cops told the news service reported.

    Maria Olson, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the US had removed all possessions.

    The seizure of the US compound comes just days after Putin ordered the expulsion of 755 members of the US diplomatic staff by Sept. 1 and said his government would take over two US properties in relation for Congress approving a sanctions bill against Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    Before Trump signed the bill imposing the sanctions on Wednesday, the Kremlin complained that it was receiving contradictory statements from the administration.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday he doesn’t believe the penalties would “be helpful to our efforts” to restore relations with Russia even as the White House said the president would sign the bill.

    Asked about Tillerson’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have not heard such statements. We note there is a certain contradiction in the statements being voiced in the White House.”

    “Without doubt, it’s important that the President of the United States is thinking about the current state, and about the prospects for, bilateral relations,” he said.

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