Russia Warns U.S.: Return Seized Diplomatic Compounds, or Else

A Russian compound in Long Island. Photo: EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

The Kremlin is running out of patience as it waits for the U.S. to return two diplomatic compounds shuttered in the waning days of the Obama administration, Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser said Monday.

Russia has displayed “unusual flexibility” on the issue, Yuri Ushakov said. But, he added, the Kremlin’s patience “has its limits” and it’s up to the U.S. to “free Russia from the need to take retaliatory moves.”

The compounds were seized from Russian control in December as a punishment for the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Located in Long Island, New York, and coastal Maryland, the properties were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes,” President Obama said at the time.

In early June, the Trump administration was reportedly considering handing the properties back to Moscow in exchange for lifting a ban on building a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. Since then, new details have emerged about what those compounds were used for. Despite Russia’s claim that they’re just giant rec rooms for its diplomats, U.S. officials discovered some disconcerting items when the properties were vacated last year, CBS News reported last month.

Among the destroyed materials discovered at the compounds were antennas, electronics, computers, file cabinets and other gear, according to a former official. Other material was missing.

Officials also told CBS news that the compounds were “significant listening posts and centers of intelligence gathering” — not crash pads filled with foosball tables.

Russia has grown increasingly annoyed with the U.S. for its refusal to return the compounds, and last week a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said, “Retaliatory measures are being prepared.” The topic is expected to be on the agenda for President Trump’s meeting with Putin later this week on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Russia to U.S.: Return Seized Diplomatic Compounds, or Else