Russia says US plans to search its San Francisco consulate

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the search was set for Saturday and accused the US authorities of threatening the "security" of Russian citizens and violating diplomats' immunity.

Russia says US plans to search its San Francisco consulate

World Bulletin / News Desk

Russia said on Friday the FBI planned to carry out a search of its San Francisco consulate, which Washington has ordered closed along with two other facilities as part of a diplomatic slugging match between the two powers.

Mysterious black smoke was seen rising from a chimney at the consulate, as firefighters confirmed its occupants were burning unidentified objects on the eve of the mission's closure.

Washington ordered on Thursday that the facility and two others be shutdown by Saturday in a retaliatory move after the Kremlin demanded the US slash staff numbers at its Russian diplomatic missions.

The spat between the two nuclear-armed powers is another blow to US President Donald Trump's pledge to try to improve relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Zakharova said in a statement that the FBI intended to carry out a search of the San Francisco consulate "including of the apartments of employees who live in the building and have immunity," forcing them and their families to leave for up to 12 hours.

"We are talking about invasion into a consulate and the accommodations of diplomatic staff," Zakharova said. "The demands of the US authorities create a direct threat to the security of Russian citizens."

"We express a resolute protest over Washington's actions that ignore international law," Zakharova said, adding that: "We reserve the right to take retaliatory measures."

The US ordered the closures in a retaliatory move after the Kremlin demanded Washington slash staff numbers at its Russian diplomatic missions to 455 personnel with a deadline that ran out on Friday.

"The United States has fully implemented the decision by the government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed in a statement.

Washington said it hoped the two sides "can avoid further retaliatory actions" and improve ties but warned it was "prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted."

Firefighters were called to the consulate in response to alarmed -- or intrigued -- phone calls from citizens, but later clarified there was no cause for concern.

San Francisco fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge told AFP that consulate employees "must be" in the middle of burning unknown items.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Eylül 2017, 11:12