Russia rejects any US conditions for return of seized compounds
MOSCOW (CNN) — Russia has described any possible conditions set by Washington to return two of the country’s diplomatic compounds in the US that were closed down late last year as “unacceptable.”
“We have repeatedly said that we think any conditions are unacceptable. We think that the diplomatic property must be returned without any conditions and talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN Monday.
“What is happening is — de facto and de jure — a violation of international law,” he said. “Contacts are happening between the foreign policy departments. Kremlin, as it is, does not really participate but as you know this issue was raised by President [Vladimir] Putin during his G20 meeting with President Trump in a quite straightforward manner.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
Last December, then-President Barack Obama imposed a range of sanctions against the Russian government for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including the closure of two Russian compounds located in New York State and Maryland.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington on Monday to discuss the compounds.
As Ryabkov left the State Department after more than two and a half hours a reporter shouted a question: “Did you get your compounds back?” He responded: “Almost, almost.” Shannon did not comment.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt over the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russian intelligence agencies interfered in the election.
Putin did not retaliate to the seizure of the compounds at the time. But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned last month that the Kremlin could retaliate if the compounds were not returned.
“It is best to immediately return our property, otherwise Russia has the right to come up [with a] tit-for-tat response in relation to American property in Russia. I want to confirm that the retaliatory measures are in the works,” Zakharova told reporters.
Asked what the Kremlin would do if nothing comes out of Monday’s meeting, Peskov said: “Let’s not jump ahead, the situation is quite sensitive and — let’s be straight — it’s quite difficult. And, you know, some excessive words can only do harm. We still hope that our American colleagues express some sort of political wisdom and political will.”