Lavrov: Any US conditions for return of Russian diplomatic property would be ‘daylight robbery’

If Washington sets conditions for the return of Russian diplomatic property it seized it would be “daylight robbery,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Lavrov was referring to a RIA Novosti report on Monday which cited a high-ranking unnamed White House official as saying that the US is not planning to return the diplomatic property to Russia without asking for “something in return.” 

FILE PHOTO: A Russian police officer patrols a street in front of the US Embassy in Moscow © Kirill Kudryavtsev

Is that source [the high-ranking official] anonymous?” Lavrov asked, while speaking to journalists on Monday. “So, I believe that their conscience is unclear. As for the issue [not returning the Russian diplomatic property without any preconditions], I consider it daylight robbery,” he said.

It looks like some highway thieves are commenting on this situation,” Lavrov added.

How is that: to seize property which was assigned by a bilateral intergovernmental ratified document, and to give it back they follow the principle, ‘Mine is mine, and yours will be shared,’” Lavrov said.

The foreign minister added he hopes that the Trump administration has people with logic who understand that their predecessors in the Obama administration decided to seize the Russian property, as well as expel 35 Russian diplomats, in “a state of agony.”

According to Lavrov, the Obama-led authorities did not know “how else they could ruin [Moscow’s] relations with Washington in such a way that the Trump administration would fail to restore them.”

"Such a zealous desire to seek some ‘hidden’ channels of Russian influence on what is happening in the US is clearly not subsiding, to my great regret, and does not add confidence that we would be able to establish normal cooperation in international relations,” Lavrov said.


Earlier on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists that Russian property in the US should be returned to Moscow without any conditions.

We still hope that our American colleagues will demonstrate a certain political wisdom and political will,” he said.

Earlier in July, Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, said that Washington may hand two diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama administration back to Moscow if it sees “acts of good faith” from the Kremlin, similar to the recently brokered ceasefire in Syria.

We want to give collaboration and cooperation a chance,” Gorka told CNN in an interview.

Gorka’s statement came amid demands from several US lawmakers that the premises not be returned to Russia, arguing that such a step “would embolden” Moscow and “invite a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin’s destabilizing actions,” according to a letter signed by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia).

The US administration led by then President Barack Obama seized two Russian diplomatic properties, in Maryland and New York, in December 2016 as retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. The US then also expelled 35 Russian diplomats.

Moscow denies the allegations of election meddling, and was outraged as it believes the property has diplomatic immunity and was thus seized in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

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Lavrov to meet Trump in Washington, Kremlin confirms

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Donald Trump in Washington during his two-day trip to the US, the Kremlin confirmed on Wednesday. The minister is currently holding talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

© Sputnik

Lavrov will discuss cooperation between the two countries in combating terrorism, as well as the issues touched on by President Vladimir Putin and Trump during their recent telephone conversation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

The closed door meeting will take place at 10:30am in the Oval Office, according to the White House. Lavrov arrived in the US late Tuesday on a two-day working visit which include talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Lavrov and Tillerson shook hands in front of reporters before the start of their meeting.

“I want to welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov to the State Department and express my appreciation for him making the trip to Washington so we could continue our dialogue and our exchange of views that began in Moscow on a very broad range of topics,” Tillerson said.

One reporter asked the Russian foreign minister to comment on the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“Was he fired? You’re kidding!” Lavrov said, leaving the room.

@RT_com 'Was he fired? You're kidding! You're kidding!': Lavrov is asked if Comey's firing casts a shadow over his visit

The encounter will be one of the highest-level contacts between Trump and the Russian government since the Republican took office in January. Earlier, a senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the agenda of the Trump-Lavrov meeting would entail Syria as well as US-Russian relations and other global issues.

Tillerson visited Russia on April 12 and held talks with both Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, with Trump saying the Secretary of State had done “tremendous work” in Moscow.

In late April, Putin noted that Trump had so far failed to make good on his campaign promises to seek better relations with Russia, adding that the level of trust between Moscow and Washington has even “degraded” since Obama left office.

READ MORE: Lavrov to meet Tillerson in Washington DC to talk Syria & Ukraine on May 10

However, last week, Trump and Putin spoke by phone where among other things they discussed the ongoing Syrian conflict.

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Lavrov: US antimissile deployment in Asia-Pacific ‘disproportionate’ to Pyongyang threat

South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD antimissile system from the US is disproportionate to the threat posed by North Korea, which was voiced as justification by both Seoul and Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We have drawn attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of the US global antiballistic missile system in Asia-Pacific,” Lavrov said after meeting his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Moscow. The two ministers met alongside their respective military colleagues, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors arrive at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea © USFK

“We have voiced our assessments, according to which, if one wants to deal with threats posed by DPRK, the creation of such ABM system as well as pumping weapons into the region are a response far from proportionate,” Lavrov said.

He added that both Moscow and Tokyo condemn Pyongyang’s violation of resolutions of the UN Security Council restricting its missile and nuclear development. Russia believes that international sanctions imposed against North Korea for defying the council “should not be perceived as an instrument of punishment, but rather a stimulus for steering the situation back into political and negotiations track.”

South Korea decided to deploy the THAAD system, due to be fully operational by August, saying it was necessary to protect from a possible missile attack by North Korea. The deployment angered China, which believes that the American system compromises its national security. Beijing is reportedly retaliating against Seoul with a round of economic measures, hitting Korean tourism and export to China.

Russia has similar concerns over the US deployment of ABM shield in Eastern Europe. Washington claims the system is needed to protect European NATO members from an attack by Iran and has brushed aside criticism from Moscow.


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Russia Readying Response to US Diplomatic Assault

Moscow, Dec 30 (Prensa Latina) Russia's Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov, has proposed expelling 31 US diplomats from Moscow and 4 from the US Consulate in St Petersburg in retaliation for a similar measure taken by Washington.

Lavrov said that his proposal, already presented to President Vladimir Putin, also includes the closure of a residence and a warehouse in Moscow, which are under the management of the US Embassy.

In an unprecedented action, not seen even in the worst moments of the Cold War, the White House yesterday gave 35 Russian diplomats (31 from Washington and 4 from San Francisco)72 hours to leave the country. The expulsions could cost Russia up to 13 million rubles, almost 220.000 US dollars, according to diplomatic sources.

The Obama Administration also ordered the closure of a country house on Long Island, which the Russian Embassy has owned since 1954, as well as another property in Maryland.

Lavrov criticized Washington for accusing Moscow, without presenting any proof, of interfering with the US elections through cyber attacks in the lead up to the defeat of Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

'They want to accuse us now of everything that has caused their foreign policy to fail, alluding to Syria and their inability to retain the White House,' Lavrov said.

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Russia to respond to any new US sanctions with ‘painful’ measures – deputy FM

Moscow will find response measures that would be “painful” for Washington if the US decides to continue toughening its sanctions against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian MPs.

“If the US opts to further toughen sanctions in defiance of common sense and in disregard of its experience that has already been quite painful for them, then we will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world,” Ryabkov told the deputies of the Russian State Duma, ahead of a vote on a bill suspending the Russian-American deal on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium.

The Russian deputy foreign minister also said that the US continues to issue threats “on a daily basis” concerning the imposition of new sanctions against Russia “under various pretexts.” He added that 281 Russian legal entities and 81 officials, including a number of high-ranking figures, are now on the US sanctions list.

At the same time, the US “continues its efforts aimed at bringing its military infrastructure nearer to Russian borders and forming anti-Russian alliances with its European allies,” he said.

Russia’s response moves are “strictly proportionate and adequate” and show that “Russia pursues a rational line and is not guided by emotions,” Ryabkov stressed.

He went on to suggest that Russia could always shift gears and resort to “asymmetrical” measures in its response. He pointed to the recently suspended agreements between the US and Russia in the nuclear energy field as an example.

The “essence” of the present crisis in relations between the US and Russia lies in the fact that “under the current administration, [US foreign policy] became even more arrogant, forceful and focused on the attempts to impose its will on other countries,” the diplomat said, adding that such policy “is doomed to failure from the start in relations with our country.”

“The White House has only itself to blame for the problems in many parts of the world as well as for the difficulties in relations with Russia,” Ryabkov said.

On Wednesday, the Russian State Duma voted in favor of a bill submitted by the president’s office that suspends a deal between the US and Russia on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium extracted from decommissioned warheads.

The deal, ratified in 2000, envisaged a specific procedure of disposing plutonium by fabricating nuclear plant fuel from it. However, the US later said that this procedure was too costly and instead opted for mixing plutonium with special dilutants and storing it indefinitely.

Russia regarded this as a breach of the agreement and stressed that the US could now potentially restore its weapons-grade plutonium.

The bill adopted on Wednesday lists measures the US should take for the agreement to be resumed. This includes reducing the US military presence on the territory of the NATO members that joined the bloc since September 1, 2000, as well as the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and compensating the loss Russia suffered as a result.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending the reprocessing agreement on October 3, in view of “a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time that it was a “forced measure” that should become “a signal to Washington.”

On October 5, Moscow also announced the suspension of cooperation agreements with the US in the nuclear and energy sectors. Russia said that the agreements covering scientific and technical cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes were “in a sleep mode” in the past two years because of US actions, and that Moscow’s move simply “reflects the reality.”

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Russia Reacts to Sweden Possibly Joining NATO

Moscow, Apr 29 (Prensa Latina) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that if Sweden decides to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russia will be obliged to give a technical-military response to this geopolitical change.

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Russian Foreign Minister Criticizes US Approach on Syria

Moscow, Apr 25 (Prensa Latina) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday described as simplistic the US approach on the proposal to fragmentize Syria in zones of influence for an alleged effective control of the ceasefire.

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