US diplo­mats evac­u­ated from Moscow com­pound

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

MOSCOW — Three trucks, a minibus, a jeep and a taxi­cab left the sum­mer­house of the US em­bassy in Moscow’s pres­ti­gious com­pound of Sere­bryany Bor in evac­u­a­tion on Tues­day, as a re­sult of es­ca­lat­ing diplo­matic ten­sions between the United States and Rus­sia.

“The last two em­ploy­ees to leave the prop­erty hung a lock on the gates,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted its correspondent who wit­nessed the de­par­ture as say­ing.

On Friday, the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry said Moscow would sus­pend the use of a ware­house and the sum­mer­house by the US em­bassy staff from Aug 1, as part of re­tal­i­a­tion to a new sanc­tion bill passed in the US Congress and the ex­pul­sion of Rus­sian diplo­mats and seizure of two Rus­sian diplo­matic prop­er­ties in the US in De­cem­ber.

On Mon­day, the US em­bassy com­plained that it was de­nied ac­cess to the sum­mer­house from Sun­day.

But Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov ex­plained on Tues­day that the prob­lems US diplo­mats en­coun­tered were due to a ban on the en­try by large trans­port ve­hi­cles to the ter­ri­tory of the com­pound.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether the US diplo­mats had com­pleted the evac­u­a­tion of its Moscow ware­house, but RIA Novosti re­ported that most of the items kept there were shipped out last week.

Ten­sions between Moscow and Wash­ing­ton have flared up since both cham­bers of the US Congress ap­proved a bill slap­ping tougher sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Sun­day an­nounced Moscow’s de­ci­sion to re­duce the US diplo­matic staff in Rus­sia by 755 peo­ple, in­clud­ing both US and Rus­sian na­tion­als, by Sept 1.

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son put the onus on Moscow on Tues­day to take steps to re­pair flag­ging re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton, even as he con­ceded that con­gres­sional sanc­tions would pose a new ob­sta­cle. Hold­ing out hope for warmer ties, Tiller­son said he’d meet with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part within days.

“The sit­u­a­tion is bad, but be­lieve me it can get worse,” Tiller­son said, re­count­ing his mes­sage to Putin when they met in March. “And it just did.”

“Nei­ther the pres­i­dent nor I are very happy about that,” Tiller­son said of the sanc­tions bill. He had urged law­mak­ers not to pro­ceed. “We were clear that we didn’t think that was go­ing to be help­ful to our ef­forts, but that’s the de­ci­sion they made.”

REUTERS

A truck with a diplo­matic li­cense plate at a dacha com­pound used by US diplo­mats for recre­ation in Moscow on Tues­day.

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