Russia Could Restrict US Diplomats' Parking Rights in Consulate Retaliation

Alexandr Sherbak  TASS

Moscow is threatening to order an additional 155 American diplomatic personnel removed from missions in Russian Federation in a further escalation of the cycle of retaliation between the two world powers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on Monday on the closure of Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States, saying that Moscow will bring the work of American missions in Russia to full accord "with what is called parity".

Russian Federation in late July ordered the U.S.to limit its staff to 455 people after the country passed new sanctions.

Obama even closed Russian recreational compounds in NY and Maryland, and imposed sanctions on Russian people and businesses - in retaliation for Kremlin meddling in the 2016 USA presidential elections.

Washington and Moscow are basing their tit-for-tat on differing interpretations of "parity", the principle that each government have an identical numerical presence in the other's country.

In response, Kremlin retaliated by ordering the U.S.to cut embassy and consulate staff down to 455 personnel.

Smoke Rising From Russian San Fransisco Consulate... That number of American employees in Russian Federation may now need to go, Lavrov suggested.

The US has sort of pocketed our kind gesture and said, "If Russians want parity, make them close one of four consulates [in the US] as we have only three consulates in Russia".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration continued to hold out hope that relations would improve. "There are far too many areas where we can, we hope we can, cooperate with Russian Federation". But there are more higher level USA diplomats in Russia, Kommersant claims, citing several diplomatic sources. The consulates canceled thousands of interview appointments for non-immigrant visa applicants on September 1.

"We discussed concrete measures relating to the current state of our military and technical collaboration which is a very important part of our cooperation", he said on Monday after talks with Safadi.

But in July, Congress overwhelmingly passed a new sanctions bill against Russian businesses and individuals, which Trump was forced to sign, albeit reluctantly. This is the same number of diplomatic personnel that Russia has had in the United States since then-US President Barack Obama's ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in December 2016.

Lavrov said that currently all USA diplomatic staff are allowed to travel freely within Russian Federation, a privilege that is now under consideration. This would also be a move toward parity: Low and midlevel Russian diplomats working in the USA have a radius of only 25 miles of free movement outside their diplomatic compounds.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the inspections were a "provocation", while some Russian officials questioned the legality.

"We have agreed to boost coordination in fight against terrorism and extremism, and moreover Jordan and Russian Federation have a common understanding as to how this must be done, without any ambiguity, without double standards, without attempt to use anti-extremist-fight slogans for interference in internal affairs of sovereign states, and such attempts to take place", Lavrov said.

He reiterated that when Moscow asked Washington to even out its diplomatic staff in Russia to the number of Russian diplomatic staff in the U.S., it showed goodwill and "included in this mainstream all those working in the Russian permanent delegation to the United Nations", reported Russian state news agency TASS.

Finally, the US diplomatic mission to Russia now enjoy special parking privileges, which Russian diplomats in the U.S.do not have, Kommersant said.

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