(WASHINGTON) — Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted America’s seizure of three Russian diplomatic posts on Sunday, calling the actions an “outrageous move” that the country treats as “a blatantly hostile act,” while releasing videos of what it is calling “illegal actions.”
The seizures of the properties, which took place Saturday at Russia’s consulate in San Francisco and trade offices in Washington D.C. and New York, are part of an ongoing tit for tat between the two countries, which has escalated after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order earlier this summer that the U.S. close two diplomatic buildings in Russia — a warehouse and a recreational facility — and reduce its staff in the country by 755 employees.
“On September 2, U.S. authorities seized the buildings of the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in San Francisco and the Trade Representation in Washington, D.C., which are the property of Russia and have a diplomatic immunity,” the statement from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads. “Russian representatives are also being denied access to the rented premises of the Trade Representation in New York.”
The statement suggests that the U.S. violated international law in seizing the properties.
“We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law, including the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and the bilateral Convention on Consular Relations,” the statement reads.
Russia urges U.S. officials to “come to their senses” and return the Russian diplomatic facilities in the statement.
If the U.S. fails to return the facilities to the Russians, America “will bear the total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations” between the two countries, threatening “global stability and international security,” the statement says.
Video evidence of “illegal actions” by FBI
The statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry follows the release of a series of videos claiming to show U.S. officials “rummaging” through buildings, as well as photos of the now-empty trade building in Washington on the office’s Facebook account.
There are statements accompanying the posts, accusing the U.S. of “illegal actions.”
Russians accused of espionage prior to seizures
Meanwhile, on Friday, smoke and fire were spotted on the sites of two Russian consulates, prior to their seizures — one in Washington and another in San Francisco.
The smoke sightings aroused suspicion from at least one U.S. lawmaker, California Rep. Jackie Speier, who claimed on Twitter that Russia was conducting espionage at the San Francisco facility.
“If there ever was doubt that espionage was going on in the SF consulate, black smoke clears the air on the issue,” Speier wrote in a tweet on Friday afternoon.
Firefighters confirmed to ABC News that the building’s occupants were burning unidentified objects.
A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said the smoke was because of measures being taken to “preserve the building” as officials were preparing to leave.
A reporter from Foreign Policy magazine recorded what also appeared to be a fire burning at the facility in Washington on Friday. It is still unclear at this time what caused the fire at that building.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.