U.S. orders closure of Russian consulate in San Francisco

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The United States on Thursday ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco as well as two annexes in Washington, D.C. and New York City, a response to Russia’s decision to oust hundreds of American diplomats.

A statement from the U.S. State Department said Russia’s decision in July to reduce staff levels at U.S. diplomatic missions was “unwarranted and detrimental” to U.S.-Russia relations. Russia, however, said its move was motivated by a new round of U.S. sanctions.

“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The compounds will have to be closed by Saturday.

“We have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship,” Nauert said. She added that the U.S. hopes to avoid further retaliatory actions and move towards their shared goal of improving bilateral relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on July 31 that the United States would have to cut its diplomatic staff to 455, the same as Russia’s complement in the U.S. He said this meant a reduction of 755 staff members, both American diplomats and Russian nationals who work at a U.S. mission.

“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” Nauert said on Thursday. Putin had ordered the U.S. to complete its reduction by September 1.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia have continued to deteriorate in recent years, initially because of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, but more recently over Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. Russia denies the allegation.

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