Kremlin takes over US-leased embassy base

  • 03/08/2017
A country house at a dacha compound used by US diplomats for recreation.
A country house at a dacha compound used by US diplomats for recreation. Photo credit: Reuters

Russian authorities have taken over a summer-house compound in Moscow leased by the US embassy, five days after the Kremlin ordered Washington to slash its diplomatic presence in Russia.

In retaliation for new US sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the United States to cut around 60 percent of its diplomatic staff in Russia by September 1, and said Moscow would seize a dacha country villa used by US embassy staff and a warehouse.

US employees cleared out the dacha on Tuesday and a Reuters journalist who visited the property on Wednesday saw a large metal padlock securing the front gate.

The one-storey building and courtyard, previously used by diplomatic staff at weekends and to host embassy parties, was empty and cleared of barbecue equipment and garden furniture.

Two policemen in a car in front of the main entrance said they had been instructed to guard the property and did not expect any visits from US or Russian officials.

"I don't know when this situation will change," one of the policemen said.

Maria Olson, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. She was quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency as saying the embassy had retrieved all its possessions from the villa, and from the warehouse.

Mr Putin said on Sunday Russia had ordered the United States to cut 755 of the 1200 diplomatic staff in its embassy and consular operations, though many of those let go will be Russian citizens, with the United States allowed to choose who leaves.