MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia threatened Swedish authorities with a tit-for-tat response over the forced sale Tuesday of its Trade Mission building in Stockholm for about 2 million euros ($2.7 million).
The building, which includes offices and living quarters, had previously been protected by diplomatic immunity. But it was sold at auction to compensate a German businessman who claimed to have lost $2.3 million in a joint venture with St. Petersburg authorities in the early 1990s.
Franz Sedelmayer had sought compensation in a decades-long legal battle that saw Sweden’s Supreme Court lift the Trade Mission’s sovereign immunity status in 2011 and rule that it should be sold for Sedelmayer’s benefit.
Shortly after the auction, Russian presidential administration spokesman Viktor Khrekov told RIA Novosti that the sale was a gross violation of iternational law and that Moscow was considering a “symmetrical” response.
Russia has stepped up condemnation of the proposed seizure in recent weeks, and summoned the Swedish ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to inform her officially that Moscow refused to recognize the legitimacy of the decision to sell the building.
Khrekov said Tuesday that Russian authorities would “immediately stop any attempt to enter the building or any other action that may be interpreted as a threat to the mission’s security.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich echoed that sentiment, saying the sale violated the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which requires Sweden to ensure the inviolability of diplomatic missions on its territory.
Sedelmayer has tried previously to seize Russian property abroad with partial success. A German court ruled in March 2008 that he had the right to receive compensation from the sale by auction of Russian-owned premises at the former Soviet Trade Mission in Cologne.
In the mid-2000s Sedelmayer also fought a legal battle over the building housing the Russian Science and Culture Center in Berlin. But German courts ruled that it was protected by state immunity.
The German businessman also tried to impound Russian state property at trade fairs in Germany, including satellite models with an estimated value of more than $1 million and a $30 million Tupolev airliner at a Berlin airshow in 2006. The latter attempt failed because private security guards did not allow bailiffs onto the premises.