Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned a United States diplomat to Moscow in order to formally protest the planned search of Russian compounds in America.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Anthony F. Godfrey, a deputy chief at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, over the planned “illegal inspection” of a Russian diplomatic building in Washington, which is set to be closed Saturday.
The Russians called the planned inspection an “unprecedented aggressive action,” and said U.S. authorities may use it as an opportunity to for “planting compromised items” in the Russian compound.
The compound in Washington is one of three ordered to be shuttered as the U.S. and Russia have engaged in a diplomatic tit-for-tat over the past several months. The other two diplomatic buildings ordered closed are in San Francisco and New York.
The summoning of Godfrey comes a day after Russia’s Foreign Ministry also accused the FBI of planning a search of its San Francisco consulate, after ordering its closure Thursday.
The U.S. has not said whether it intends to search either of the buildings.
A spokeswoman for the ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the search would “create a direct threat to the security of Russian citizens.”
Zakharova said in a statement Friday, “American special services intend on September 2 to carry out a search of the consulate in San Francisco including of the apartments of employees who live in the building and have [diplomatic] immunity.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press has reported that firefighters were called to the site of the consulate, but were not allowed to enter, after black smoke was seen billowing from a chimney. Firefighters determined that the fire was confined to a fireplace somewhere in the building.
A spokeswoman for San Francisco Fire Department, Mindy Talmadge, told reporters she did not know what people inside the building would be burning on a day when the outdoor temperature was around 35 degrees Celsius.
According to a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, the smoke came as part of efforts to “preserve the building” at a time when officials were gearing up to leave.
The move to close the San Francisco building came in response to a demand from Moscow that Washington reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Thursday, adding that the deadline for the closures is September 2.