US State Department: Actions against Russian consulate 'perfectly legal'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington. Reuters file

The US Department of State explained the removal of the Russian flags from the buildings of the closed Russian diplomatic properties in the United States, APA reports quoting sputniknews.

In a telephone call, Lavrov told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the move went against efforts to fix ties between the two countries, which have become increasingly strained.

U.S. State Department officials searched the Russian general consulate in San Francisco earlier this month after Russian diplomatic staff was forced to vacate the property on Washington's orders.

The Foreign Ministry added that the actions of USA officials contradicted the statements of Washington about an intention to normalize bilateral relations.

Russian news agencies cited the Russian embassy as saying it had lodged a formal protest over the incident.

"We demand an immediate end to the takeover of our property in the USA which is accompanied by offensive actions", he added.

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U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, asked about the accusations later, told reporters that U.S. actions at the shuttered Russian facilities were "perfectly legal" and were carried out with "a lot of thought" and in a "judicious fashion".

Russia's ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov also denounced the move.

Zakharova said that Moscow considered the removal of its flags as a "hostile step" and was thinking new measures in response to it.

"The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings", the official said on Wednesday.

US President Donald Trump initially pledged to improve ties, but those promises have been overshadowed by allegations of collusion between Russian Federation and members of Trump's election campaign.

The MP noted that, when Russian Federation had told the United States to cut the numbers of its diplomatic mission's staff, it reserved the right for additional reciprocal measures.

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