Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow will give a tough response to US measures aimed at hurting it as a diplomatic spat between the two countries escalates.
Speaking to students at Russia’s top diplomacy school on Friday, Lavrov said Moscow “will have a tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven solely by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States.”
His comments came a day after the United States ordered Russia to shutter its consulate in San Francisco and close offices in Washington and New York within 48 hours in response to Moscow’s drastic reduction of US diplomatic personnel in Russia last month.
The Russian foreign minister went on to complain that Washington had only given Moscow two days to comply with its demands. He; however, hinted that his country might look at ordering further reductions in US embassy staff.
“We’ll react as soon as we finish our analysis,” Lavrov said.
He blamed former US President Barack Obama for the exchange of sanctions between Moscow and Washington.
“I want to say that this whole story with (the two countries) exchanging tit-for-tat sanctions was not started by us. It was started by the Obama administration to undermine US-Russia relations and to not allow [President Donald] Trump to advance constructive ideas or fulfill his pre-election pledges,” the top Russian diplomat said.
‘Direct threat to security’
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US special services plans to search the Russian consulate in San Francisco and even scour the residences of consulate workers on Saturday directly threaten Russian citizens.
“Alongside yet another raid on expensive objects of Russian state property, which [the US] has blocked and are now persistently offering to put up on sale, this time the demands of the US authorities pose a direct threat to security of Russian citizens,” she said.
Zakharova went on to say that the searches would be conducted by FBI agents, which she said would compromise the Russian staff’s diplomatic immunity.
In a Thursday statement, US State Department’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the United States would require Russia to close the three offices by Saturday “in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on July 30 that the American diplomatic mission in Russia must reduce its staff by 755 employees.
In making the announcement, Putin said Moscow had run out of patience waiting for relations with the United States to improve.
While Trump himself has been perceived as open toward warmer relations with Russia, the US Congress took action to punish Moscow for the alleged interference in the 2016 election.
There have been claims that Russia attempted to sway the election in favor of Trump by hacking computers belonging to his rival’s campaign and dumping potentially compromising information online.
Russia has consistently denied the accusations of meddling, and had in the meantime been warning that the US had to return the diplomatic premises.