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    Killenworth, an estate built in 1913 for George du Pont Pratt and purchased by the former Soviet Union in 1951, is seen in Glen Cove, New York, on December 30, 2016. Killenworth is one of two Russian compounds on the North Shore of Long Island with Norwich House, in Upper Brookville, being closed to Russian officials as part of the sanctions ordered by US President Barack Obama in retaliation for suspected Russian hacking during the US elections

    A New Twist With Seized Russian Property: How Far US is Ready to Go

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    2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg (113)

    The topic of US-seized Russian diplomatic property is gaining momentum as Presidents Putin and Trump meet at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. A trio of US Senators have urged their President not to return the property. Political analyst Vyachslav Smirnov told Sputnik Radio that there is a "very interesting story" concerning the compounds.

    Ahead of the meeting of the two Presidents, three Senators, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio and Johnny Iakson sent a letter to Donald Trump, warning him against making any deal with Russian President Putin on the return of the seized Russian diplomatic compounds.

    The three politicians claimed that the "return of these two facilities to Russia while the Kremlin refuses to address its influence campaign against the United States‎ would embolden President Vladimir Putin and invite a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin’s destabilizing actions against democracies worldwide."

    "We urge you to remove the return of these facilities from any negotiation or consideration [them] in your discussions with President Putin during your upcoming trip," they wrote.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier stressed that the two compounds seized by the US were Russian property and enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Hence the US actions were in breach of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

    "Russia's position on the de facto confiscation of Russian property on US territory is well-known… We demand that what was taken away illegally be returned to us immediately. We would also like to note that if it so happens that Washington does not restore the diplomatic immunity of our property, the response with regard to US property in Russia will be symmetric," Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said earlier in June.

    Sputnik Radio discussed the issue with a Russian political analyst, director of the Scientific and Research Institute of Political Sociology Vyacheslav Smirnov, who noted that the two compounds' situation was "very interesting."

    "There is a very interesting situation concerning it: the property was frozen but not foreign. It remains Russia's property. However the access of Russian diplomats to it has been blocked. What is the most important now is that the Senate, among others, suggests that it should not only be returned, but in case it is ever given back, it should be stripped of diplomatic immunity," he explained to Sputnik.

    The political analyst also suggested that the issue of Russia's diplomatic property has acquired a symbolic meaning: the US wants to demonstrate its supremacy over Russia.

    "If there is no other way to demonstrate your dominance, then you need to 'dominate' by seizing 'dachas'.  In fact, it was not seized in the full sense of the word — the Russian side can always sell these objects; access to them has been temporarily blocked," he said.

    In December 2016, the administration of former president Barack Obama imposed a set of punitive measures against Russia over Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election and harassment of US diplomats stationed in Russia.

    The sanctions included the closure of Russian diplomatic compounds in Washington and New York, which the White House claimed had been used as a cover for Russian spying activities in the United States.

    Meanwhile, The Star Tribune, the largest newspaper in the US state of Minnesota, reported that "officials in some parts of the US intelligence community don't want the properties returned under any circumstances."

    It quoted a senior congressional aide with knowledge of events last year, who said that the expulsion of the Russian diplomats had nothing to do with election tampering.

    "The aide also said the Russian compound in Maryland is located close enough to sensitive US locations, including the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, to pose an espionage threat, and offers a good line of sight to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade across the Chesapeake Bay," the outlet said.

    "Closing the compounds was something that had been on the list for a long, long time," it quotes the aide, "who wasn't authorized to speak about the subject publicly and demanded anonymity," as saying.

    The newspaper also quoted a former senior US intelligence official as saying that "the FBI and intelligence agencies for decades wanted the two compounds closed because they were suspected of being used for surveillance work."

    Obama's decision to close the two compounds was a "pretty big deal for us because it was something that we'd been asking to do for a long, long time," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

    The official also said that "America's spy agencies are providing intelligence to policymakers weighing the future of the compounds."

    The 45-acre Maryland retreat in Centreville has a brick mansion and cottages along the Corsica River. The former Soviet Union bought the compound in 1972 as a getaway for diplomats posted in nearby Washington, the newspaper reminded.

    The New York mansion is on Long Island's Gold Coast. The estate, once called Elmcroft, is in the town of Oyster Bay. The Soviets purchased it in 1952.

    2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg (113)
    building seizure, G20 summit in Hamburg, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, United States, Russia
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