Sun, 21 Oct 2018
Oklahoma City

MOSCOW, Russia - An infuriated Russia has described any possible pre-conditions set by Washington to return two of the country's diplomatic compounds in the U.S. as "unacceptable."

Last December, the former President Barack Obama imposed a range of sanctions against the Russian government for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including expelling 35 Russian diplomats.

The closure of two Russian compounds located in New York State and Maryland were part of the sanctions. 

At the time, Russian President, Vladimir Putin did not retaliate to the seizure of the compounds.

Last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that the Kremlin could retaliate if the compounds were not returned.

Now, Russia is pressing the current U.S. administration with demands that the U.S. return access to two diplomatic compounds seized last year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement on Monday, "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. What is happening is - de facto and de jure - a violation of international law. 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."

Earlier, Zakharova had warned, "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.”

Last week, Russia said it was considering "specific measures" in retaliation, including the expulsion of 30 US diplomats and seizure of U.S. state property.

Further, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the move as "daylight robbery.”

Lavrov added that this was not the way decent and well-brought-up people behaved.

During a visit to Belarus, he said, “How can you seize property which is protected by a bilateral, inter-governmental, ratified document and, to return it, act according to the principle 'what is mine is mine, and what is yours we'll share'?" 

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was expected to meet with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington to discuss the diplomatic compounds.

Peskov, when questioned about Kremlin’s response if nothing comes out of Monday's meeting, 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."

The meeting, that was initially expected to take place in June in St Petersburg, was cancelled after the U.S. government added 38 individuals and organisations to its list of sanctions over Russian activity in Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump, on his part, has repeatedly cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russian intelligence agencies interfered in the election.

Trump's team is currently under investigation over alleged Russian collusion during last year's presidential campaign. 

The Kremlin, on its part, has denied interfering in the election.

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