WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US administration is trying to link a positive decision on the issue of the Russian diplomatic property seized in the United States with provision of land for construction of a new US consulate building in St. Petersburg, Minister-Counselor of the Russian Embassy in the United States Denis Gonchar told Sputnik.
"So far, the State Department is by inertia trying to link a positive solution on the [Russian diplomatic property] issue with the provision of land to the United States in St. Petersburg for the construction of a new consulate general building," Gonchar said. "We consider this approach unacceptable, because in Russia, the United States did not have anything belonging to them by right of ownership taken away."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier in May that Washington pledged to prepare proposals in the near future aimed to settle the issue of Russian diplomatic property seized in the United States.
In December 2016, the administration of former US President Barack Obama imposed a set of punitive measures against Russia, including the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of the two Russian diplomatic compounds. The actions were taken in response to Moscow's alleged interference in the US presidential elections, which Russia has repeatedly denied.
"We consider the step taken by the former administration as unprecedented for modern international practice and absolutely illegal," Gonchar stated. "In fact, it is about the expropriation of sovereign Russian property in the United States. Both, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and the US law – guarantees enshrined in the US Constitution on inviolability of property rights — are grossly violated."
"The Russian side did not deliberately take retaliatory measures, realizing that the US actions were dictated by the petty desire of the Obama administration to slam the door louder before leaving the political arena and lay another mine under the already shattered foundation of bilateral relations so that it ricochets to the newly elected US authorities," he said.
"We hope that we will be able to resolve the situation in a constructive way," Gonchar stated. "Otherwise, we will have to take counter measures against American diplomatic property in Russia, according to the principle of reciprocity. The US side has been notifies about what the measures could be, but it was not our choice."
Relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated in 2014 after the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. Washington imposed a set of restrictions against Moscow citing its alleged involvement in the conflict.