The U.S. Department of State announced Thursday that it is ordering the closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in New York and Washington, D.C.
Consulate officials, in response, described the move as an “unfriendly” step on the part of American authorities and warned that it will hurt both Russian citizens living in the area and Americans seeking tourist visas to Russia.
The closures, which must take place by Saturday, are part of what appears to be an escalating diplomatic struggle between the U.S. and Russia.
They were announced in response to an order by the Russian government last month to reduce the number of American diplomatic staff allowed in their country, according to a statement by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
That decision, in turn, followed the announcement by then-President Barack Obama in December that four employees and their families would be expelled from the Russian consulate at 2790 Green St. in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.
Those removals were part of sanctions against Russia for allegedly interfering with the U.S. election through computer hacking and harassing U.S. diplomats abroad.
Donald Trump won the presidential election in November and is now under investigation about possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.
The statement from the State Department noted that the closures mean both countries will remain with three consulates each:
“The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern.”
A statement issued by the consulate Thursday described the closure as:
“… another unfriendly step of the U.S. authorities, which, first of all, will hit hard on Russian citizens residing in the consular district, as well as on American citizens.”
The consulate will stop receiving visits on consular issues starting Friday, the statement said.