(ANTIMEDIA) Moscow — At the tail end of 2016, amid a tidal wave of accusations that Russia was responsible for the hack of Democrat Party networks, the United States seized two Russian compounds. The U.S. alleged they were used for intelligence-gathering and expelled 35 out of the country’s diplomats.
Calling such accusations “ungrounded” and “a manifestation of unpredictable and aggressive foreign policy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated at the time that President Vladimir Putin would consider retaliatory measures. Putin elected against a reciprocal response, however, even though the seized compounds were never returned to Russian hands.
Now, it appears Putin may be preparing to make good on his threats. Speaking to Russian media in Moscow on Tuesday, the president’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said it’s “outrageous” that the U.S. has failed to relinquish control of the compounds and that Russia is now “considering specific measures” in response.
Calling it “simply shameful for such a great country as the United States, a champion of international law, to leave the situation in such a state of suspended animation,” Lavrov went on to say the U.S. is “charged up with Russophobia” and that “justice and international law must be restored.”
Both seized properties are mansions surrounded by woods. One of the estates, which located on the eastern shore of Maryland, is 45 acres and is alleged to have been used by diplomats for recreation such as swimming and tennis. The other estate is a 49-room mansion on Long Island, New York. The U.S. government claims both properties doubled as spying outposts.
Reporting on Lavrov’s comments, the BCC highlighted the complicated position the Trump administration now finds itself in. Calling the situation a “Catch-22,” the news agency notes that Trump and his team are, as the saying goes, damned if they do and damned if they don’t:
“If President Trump hands back the Russian diplomatic compounds seized by President Obama last year, he will cement his image of Kremlin stooge in the eyes of his opponents. At this point any concessions to Russia would be highly controversial, in light of current investigations in America into alleged links between Mr Trump’s team and Moscow.
“But if the Russian compounds are not returned, Moscow may well expel a number of US diplomats and seize some US diplomatic buildings. That could complicate what Mr Trump says he wants to achieve: better relations with Russia.”
On that front, it was also reported Tuesday that during the two men’s first-ever meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday at the G20 summit, Putin and Donald Trump did, in fact, discuss the U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 election. This contradicts an earlier statement by Trump via Twitter on July 9:
“Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!”
But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday “there were sanctions specific to election meddling that I believe were discussed, but not beyond that.”
Additionally, Trump’s deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, confirmed to CNN Tuesday morning that the two men got “an opportunity to finally address this issue head of state to head of state to push more than once on the question of meddling” on Friday and that Trump “sent a very clear message” to Putin without trying to “create conflict with Russia.”
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