Suburban scandal: why the US is not returned to Russia two residences


On July 17 in Washington, DC hosted the meeting of Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Ryabkov with Deputy Secretary of state for political Affairs Thomas Shannon. It lasted approximately two hours. As a result, Moscow and Washington “almost” reached an agreement on diplomatic property of Russia, Ryabkov said to journalists after talks (his words gave TASS). Shannon declined to comment. Unless serious progress on this issue, Russia will be forced to take “mirror” measures, warned earlier the Russian foreign Ministry.

On July 17 the press Secretary of the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov said that Russia hopes to regain its departmenet in the United States.

Consultation Ryabkov and Shannon was held in the framework of bilateral consultations for solving problems in Russian-American relations. The previous meeting scheduled for June 23 in St. Petersburg, was canceled by Moscow after Washington’s decision to extend sanctions against Russia because of the situation around Ukraine, said the foreign Ministry. The problem of diplomatic property of Russia also discussed the Russian and American presidents during the meeting in Hamburg on the sidelines of the summit.

The meeting Ryabkov and Shannon “would have to end very specific things,” promised July 14, the official representative of the foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova. It is also expected that Shannon will provide specific proposals to resolve the crisis.

Two “cottages”

December 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a decree, which obliges 35 Russian diplomats to leave America and shut down their colleagues access to two properties that were used by the Russians, as considered in Washington, for electronic intelligence and espionage. “The state Department closes two Russian territory, in Maryland and new York, which was used by Russian personnel for intelligence purposes, and declares persona non grata 35 Russian intelligence agents,” said Obama. The reason for this decision was the expected intervention of the Kremlin in the elections of U.S. “pressure” on American diplomats in Russia, reported on the White house website. Moscow has not reciprocated, taking a wait and see attitude.

A Russian dacha, Maryland, located a hundred kilometers from Washington. It covers an area of about 45 acres (18 hectares) and is located in the town of pioneer point, near the town of Centerville. The land was purchased by the Soviet government in 1972. The residence, consisting of 33 rooms allegedly used by the Russian diplomats for the summer holidays. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mansion and its accompanying land, the cost of which the Associated Press estimated at $3 million, became the property of Russia.

In the state of new York the Russian diplomatic property is approximately 36 acres (15 hectares) and is located on the island of long island. In particular, Russia belongs to consisting of 49 room mansion Killingworth purchased by the Soviet government in 1951 to accommodate the Soviet diplomatic delegation to the United Nations, according to the newspaper The New York Times. American diplomatic officials called the estate Russia’s in Maryland and new York as “blizhnyaya dacha” and “the far country”, wrote the Washington Post.

“Mirror measures”

The US also own property in Russia — the residence of the American Ambassador in Moscow (Spaso house), a cottage in the Silver forest, a warehouse on a Traffic street and the building of the Anglo-American school.

July 14 Maria Zakharova said that the list of responses to the December demarche, Washington was prepared by Moscow in the same month. Among them — the expulsion of American diplomats, a ban on the use of the property. “The number of members of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow greatly exceeds the number of our Embassy employees in Washington. Accordingly, one of the obvious options, in addition to the purely symmetrical expulsion of the Americans, just to balance staff”, explained Zakharov.

Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov has repeatedly stressed that Moscow’s patience “running out”.

“Closing us access to Russian facilities in the US, the authorities not only grossly violated the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961, but the bilateral agreement of 1979, under which we have provided to the American Embassy in Moscow, two plots of land under the cottage and the warehouse,” — said Zakharov (quoted by the Ministry of foreign Affairs website).

According to the Vienna Convention, the diplomatic property of a state in the country of residence shall be inviolable. “Premises of the mission, the objects of their environment and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, arrest and Executive actions,” reads article 22 of the Vienna Convention.

However, according to United States law, domestic law takes precedence over international, drew attention to the expert on American law Stanislav Grigoriev, Advisor Herbert Smith Freehills.

The diplomatic impasse

Washington is ready to return areas in Maryland and new York, Russia, if Moscow will show good faith in complying with the ceasefire in Syria, said last week Deputy assistant of the US President, Sebastian Gorka. From the point of view of Dmitry Peskov, the conditions for the return of Russian property contrary to international law and is unacceptable. On the day of the meeting Ryabkov and Shannon Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov called such demands “daylight robbery”.

Washington expects Russia to ensure that houses in Maryland and new York will not be used for intelligence gathering in the future, and only in this case, ready to reclaim the property quoted in the June edition BuzzFedd Secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

Claims that Moscow used cottages in Maryland and new York for espionage, need evidence, says General Director of the Russian international Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrei Kortunov. “It is difficult to provide compelling evidence that the work was carried out from the territory of these objects”, — he said RBC. From a legal point of view, the arrest of the Russian diplomatic property contrary to international law, because this ownership was diplomatic immunity, said RBC expert discussion club “Valdai” Rhine, mullerson, former head of international law Department of king’s College London. “The seizure of diplomatic property, even if there were “illegal” activities is a violation of international law,” mullerson said.

The arrest of Russian dachas in America was political in nature, it is part of a broader problem, namely the crisis in Russian-American relations, sure, mullerson. If the current Republican administration has agreed to return Russia its property, it would have been used by Democrats and Republicans as part of the anti-Russian campaign, according to mullerson. Earlier, the Democrats in Congress have opposed the return of Russian property. “Why are we even considering the question of the return of these villas in negotiations with them [with Russia]?” — quoted by BuzzFeed, democratic Senator from new Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen.

The lack of progress in solving the problem of diplomatic property of Russia in the United States may drive the Russian and us diplomats in almost insoluble impasse, warns Kortunov.

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