US maneuvers to, among other things, take down the Russian flag at Russian diplomatic facilities in the US are "perfectly legal," the US State Department announced Thursday afternoon, Sputnik reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov communicated to his US counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that the removal of Russian flags was unacceptable. On Wednesday, US authorities ordered the removal of the flags at the Consulate General in San Francisco and at the Russian Trade Representation building in Washington, DC.
Moscow is "prepared" to file a lawsuit "in order to return the diplomatic property that had been illegally seized," according a statement the Russian Foreign Ministry issued Wednesday.
"Our actions when it comes to those facilities we believe is perfectly legal," Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, told reporters.
Washington and Moscow have engaged in a series of tit-for-tat measures dating back to President Barack Obama's seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds in December of last year on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where diplomats would visit a "dacha" vacation retreat, as well as a building in New York where dignitaries would retire between meetings at the United Nations in New York. Thirty-five Russian diplomats were expelled as part of Obama's retaliation to what Washington claimed was "Russian meddling" in US elections.
The situation was supposed to improve when US President Donald Trump was sworn into office on January 20, but bilateral relations have not improved to the extent some had hoped they would.
Moscow eventually ordered the US diplomatic mission in Russia to cut its staff to 755 people to bring parity to the number of dignitaries in both countries.
Following the loss of jobs for some Americans — and many Russians — who had been working at those facilities, the US retaliated September 2 by closing the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco as well as Moscow's trade missions in Washington, DC and New York. Russia called these actions unfriendly and pledged to sue the proper US authorities over the situation.
On September 15, the US Congress passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act with funding for a cruise missiles with a range that is plainly prohibited under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a move former CIA analyst and operations officer John Kiriakou told Sputnik News amounted to "one more coal on the fire of US-Russian relations."