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Russia 'ready to retaliate' over US row

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-19 07:05

Obama ordered seizure of compounds and expulsion of 35 diplomats last year

MOSCOW - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday Moscow reserved the right to take retaliatory measures against the United States after a meeting in Washington ended without a deal on returning seized Russian diplomatic property.

Barack Obama, then US president, ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in December over what he said was their involvement in hacking US presidential election campaign last year, something Russia flatly denies.

Moscow has said a lot would depend on the outcome of a meeting in Washington on Monday between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon who discussed the diplomatic row.

But the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday a resolution to the problem had not yet been found.

"The Russian side stressed (in the meeting) that if Washington does not remove this and other irritants, including continued obstacles to the work of our diplomatic institutions, we reserve the right to take retaliatory measures based on the principle of reciprocity," the statement said.

Russia wanted to resume regular dialogue with the US about strategic stability too, it said, saying it was up to Washington to make a move on the issue.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin and US counterpart Donald Trump met for the first time at the G20 Summit in Hamburg this month, Putin raised the question of the diplomatic sites "quite unambiguously", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"We consider it absolutely unacceptable to place conditions on the return of diplomatic property, we consider that it must be returned without any conditions and talking," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday.

"We still hope our American colleagues will show political wisdom and political will," he said.

Those talks on Monday, which lasted three hours, had originally been scheduled for June, but Russia canceled them at the time, citing new US sanctions linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

After the meeting, Ryabkov, asked by journalists if the issue of the diplomatic compounds had been resolved, replied: "Almost, almost".

There was no word from the US side.

'Toxic' investigations

When Obama announced the sanctions in December, Putin held off from retaliating, saying he would wait to see how Trump reacted after he came into the White House.

But hope that Trump would follow up on campaign pledges to boost relations have fizzled as any ties to Moscow have become toxic for the White House amid a maelstrom of US investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Now Russia has ratcheted up threats that it could belatedly take revenge by blocking a country house and a storage facility used by the US embassy in Moscow.

"If Washington decides not to solve this issue, we will have to take counter actions," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained last week that the US was also refusing to issue visas for Russian diplomats to replace those expelled.

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(China Daily 07/19/2017 page11)

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