Russia says the United States should either correct a 2016 decision by former President Barack Obama to expel a number of Russian politicians and “illegally” seize Russian diplomatic compounds in America or wait for Moscow’s “measures of reciprocity.”
“From the point of view of international law, Russia cannot put up with it for a long time, leaving it without taking any measures of reciprocity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a news conference on Wednesday.
“But at the same time we expect that in the end our colleagues in the US will finally show some kind of political will to rectify the violations of international law which they admitted,” he added.
The months-long political row began in December 2016, when the Obama administration ejected 35 Russian officials and took over two pieces of property belonging to the Kremlin, on the grounds that Moscow was using them to hinder America’s democratic process.
The properties included a 45-acre compound in Maryland and a mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast in New York City, both purchased by the Soviet Union in 1972 and 1952, respectively.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin took no retaliatory measures in response to Obama’s move, hoping that ties between the two sides would improve under his successor, Donald Trump.
In late April, the Trump administration sent the first signal by reportedly saying it would return the two compounds if Moscow allowed the construction of a new US consulate in St. Petersburg to continue. Russia had ordered the project to freeze in 2014, in response to US sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
However, Washington changed its stance days later, when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the deal was off.
Moscow’s frustration with Washington’s flip-flopping was best reflected in Lavorv’s remarks on Tuesday, who called Washington’s lack of regard for the issue “outrageous.”
“I believe that for such a great country like the United States of America, this advocate of international law, it’s just shameful to leave the situation in mid-air,” he said during a trip to Austria, warning that Moscow was “now thinking of specific steps” to retaliate.
According to Russian media, Moscow’s retaliatory steps might involve deporting around 30 US politicians and taking over two American diplomatic compounds in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The reciprocal measure might go into effect as soon as next week, when Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, and Thomas Shannon, a US under secretary of state, will meet to discuss the issue.