Russia cries foul after US inspectors enter shuttered Seattle consulate
iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — U.S. inspectors have swept the Russian consulate in Seattle after the Trump administration ordered Russia to vacate the property in a dramatic response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom.
The security sweep took place Wednesday after the U.S. gave Russia extra time to hand over control of the facility — but it was met by Russian protests and claims the U.S. was violating international agreements.
The Trump administration commanded Russia to close its consulate in Seattle and send home a total of 60 personnel — whom the U.S. deemed were undercover intelligence operatives, which Russia denied. The consulate was originally to be vacated by April 1, but the U.S. extended it until 11:59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, April 24.
At midnight, the property was “no longer authorized for use for any diplomatic or consular purposes and no longer enjoys any privileges or immunities, including inviolability, previously made available to it,” according to a State Department official.
The State Department’s Diplomatic Security personnel arrived Wednesday to ensure that Russia had handed it over, breaking locks and entering the mansion, according to ABC’s local affiliate KOMO. The State Department confirmed it was a “walk-through inspection” in a statement to ABC News.
But Russian officials were on the scene to document what they called a “break-in” and take video of the “intruders” that was then published on the Russian embassy’s Twitter account.
The U.S. withdrew its consent for Russia’s consulate, however, as every country has the right to do under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In fact, Russia closed the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to shut down the Seattle office.
Russian personnel who worked at the facility were transferred to other Russian missions in the U.S. or forced to depart the U.S.
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