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Russia Accuses US of Plans for Unlawful Search

  • VOA News

People stop to watch black smoke coming from the roof of the Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco, Sept. 1, 2017.

Russia's foreign ministry has accused the FBI of planning a search of its San Francisco consulate on Saturday, after ordering its closure Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the search, which the United States has not confirmed, 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."

Black smoke

Meanwhile, the Associated Press has reported that firefighters were called to the site of the consulate, but 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 (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

On Thursday, the United States ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two other annexes by this weekend.

The move was 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.

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