Russia calls U.S. inspection “unprecedented aggressive action”

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Anthony F. Godfrey, a deputy chief at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was summoned on Saturday by Russia’s foreign ministry to deliver a formal “note of protest” to the White House over U.S. plans to conduct searches in Russia’s soon-to-be closed trade mission complex in Washington DC.

Russia’s foreign ministry called the planned inspection of Russian diplomatic housing as “illegal,” and an “unprecedented aggressive action”, which could be used by the U.S. special services for “anti-Russian provocations” by the way of “planting compromised items”.

The closure of the San Francisco consulate is set for Saturday, as to are buildings in Washington DC and New York that house Russian trade missions.  The shut downs are the latest in antagonistic tit-for-tat actions taken by the U.S. and Russia.

The Kremlin has said the moves to close the Russian facilities pushed U.S. and Russian relations further into the dirt.

On Friday afternoon,  there were reports of smoke billowing from a chimney of the San Francisco consulate building, which Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the ministry, said was part of a “mothballing”.

“In relation to this, the windows could be closed, the light could be turned off, the water could be drained out, the heating appliances could be turned off, the garbage could be thrown away, essential services could be turned off and many other things,” she wrote on social media.

Last month, Moscow ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people to match the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.  The order came after the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia.

The ministry said Saturday that the note given to Anthony Godfrey says that conducting such a search in the absence of Russian officials is an unprecedented, aggressive action that unlawfully targets diplomats and could be used by U.S. intelligence services to provoke Russia.

A senior administration official had this to say on Thursday: “I think that we are responding in this instance to the Russian desire for parity in the diplomatic relationship, and we have taken these steps in that measure, in that spirit, and it is our hope that the Russians will recognize that since they were the ones who started the discussion on parity and we’re responding and complying with what they required of us.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that the government was weighing a response to the compound closures, and vowed to respond harshly to anything that threatened Moscow’s interests.

“So you know, it takes two to tango,” he told students in Moscow. “So far, it seems like our American partners are more interested in solo break dancing.”

Despite the tensions between Russia and the United States of America, the federal probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller continues on with no signs of stopping.  The probe is to determine if Russian hackers played a role in the U.S. 2016 election, and if there was collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

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