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Russia Has Complied With Order to Shutter Posts, U.S. Says

The United States says Russia has complied with its order to shutter its San Francisco consulate and trade offices in Washington and New York.
Image: U.S. Embassy in Moscow
Washington will halt the issuance of all non-immigrant visas in Russia for nine days from August 23, 2017 and will thereafter reduce visa operations.Mladen Antonov / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States says Russia has complied with its order to shutter its San Francisco consulate and trade offices in Washington and New York.

But the U.S. is disputing a claim from Russia that U.S. officials threatened to break down the doors as part of a plan to search the premises.

A senior State Department official says that personnel from the Russian Embassy joined State Department officials for walkthroughs of the three properties so the U.S. could verify the Russians had vacated ahead of the Saturday deadline. The official says it's untrue that the FBI is "clearing the premises."

The official also says the U.S. is giving "sufficient time" for families to pack up and leave apartments at the consulate. The official isn't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

The closing of the offices comes after Russia's foreign ministry summoned a U.S. diplomat in Moscow to hand him a note of protest over plans to conduct searches in Russia's trade mission complex in Washington, the ministry said in a statement earlier Saturday.

It said it had summoned Anthony F. Godfrey, a deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Related: U.S. Shutters Russia's San Francisco Consulate in Retaliation

The ministry called the planned "illegal inspection" of Russian diplomatic housing an "unprecedented aggressive action," which could be used by the U.S. special services for "anti-Russian provocations" by the way of "planting compromised items."

The closure of the consulate and buildings in Washington and New York that house Russian trade missions is the latest in tit-for-tat actions by the two countries that have helped push relations to a new post-Cold War low.

The Kremlin has said the moves to close the Russian facilities pushed bilateral ties further into a dead end.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow.Mladen Antonov / AFP - Getty Images

On Friday, the Russian foreign ministry also said the U.S. special services were prepared for searches in its consulate in San Francisco.

Some media reported that a smoke was billowing from a chimney of the building. Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the ministry, said it was part of a "mothballing."

Related: Presidential Pardons Might Not End Russia Prosecutions

"In relation to this, the windows could be closed, the light could be turned off, the water could be drained out, the heating appliances could be turned off, the garbage could be thrown away, essential services could be turned off and many other things," she wrote on social media.

Moscow last month ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people to match the number of Russian diplomats in the United States, after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia.