04:32 GMT10 May 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States' decision to close the Russian Consulates in Seattle will hurt American citizens in the long run, President of the Seattle-based Council for US-Russian Relations Derek Norberg told Sputnik on Wednesday.

    "I predict that the effect of the closures of the Russian consulates in both Seattle and San Francisco will not be felt immediately by average US citizens but more over time," he said.

    In compliance with a US order, all Russian diplomatic personnel left the Consulate in Seattle on Tuesday morning and headed to Washington DC, where they are expected to arrive on May 3. The diplomats locked the residence but retained the keys because the facility remains the property of Russia.

    READ MORE: Russian Consulate General in Seattle Closed, State Department Notified

    Now that the United States ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco last August, as well as the Seattle mission this month, American citizens and Russian nationals in western US States can no longer seek diplomatic services on the Pacific west coast, Norberg noted.

    "Effectively, fully half the United States territory West and North of Houston, including Alaska and Hawaii, is without a Russian Consulate," he said.

    Norberg, who has worked with the Soviet Union and Russia for over 30 years, also underscored the historical importance of the Consulate in Seattle. In 1992, it became the first consulate opened in the US by the new Russian Federation in the post-Soviet era, he said.

    He expressed regret that both the US and Russia were closing diplomatic missions in each others' countries, calling the development a "clear failure of diplomacy."

    "Regrettably, at the very time we need better diplomacy, our countries are expelling diplomats and tearing down the diplomatic infrastructure," Norberg said.

    On March 26, US President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle over allegations that Moscow was involved in the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom. Russia has strongly and repeatedly denied any involvement in the case.

    In response to Trump's expulsions, Russia in a reciprocal move on March 29 expelled 60 US diplomats and ordered the closure of the American Consulate in St. Petersburg.

    This year's expulsions follow a series of similar tit-for-tat moves last year. Last September, the US ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and Russia's trade missions in New York and Washington. US officials said the move came in response to Moscow's decision last July to reduce the number of US diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the same number of diplomatic personnel Russia had in the United States.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin last July ordered the 755 American diplomats to leave Russia after the US Congress imposed sanctions on Moscow over allegations of interference in the 2016 US election. Moscow has repeatedly denied meddling in the vote, dismissing the allegations as "absurd."


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