Russia: US closure of diplomatic sites a 'blatantly hostile act'

MOSCOW, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Moscow denounced the American decision to close three Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States as a "blatantly hostile act" that violated international law and demanded Washington reverse the order on Sunday.

The United States has ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco and two buildings housing trade missions in Washington and New York. It is the latest broadside in a tit-for-tat exchange between the countries that has helped push relations towards a new post-Cold War low.

Russian diplomats were working to vacate the properties over the weekend, including the six-story consulate.

"We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law," the Russian foreign ministry said of the U.S. order, which was made in late August in retaliation for Moscow cutting the United States' diplomatic presence in Russia.

"We urge the U.S. authorities to come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities," the ministry added on its website. "Otherwise the USA will bear total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries."

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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.
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Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, said that U.S. authorities had told Moscow that they expected Russia to sell the facilities, TASS state news agency reported.

Relations between the two nations have been badly strained since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, developments which led Washington to impose sanctions on Russia.

U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January, saying he wanted to improve ties. But relations have been damaged by accusations from American intelligence officials that Russia sought to meddle in the presidential election, something Moscow denies.

Trump, himself battling allegations his associates colluded with Russia, grudgingly signed into law last month new sanctions against Moscow that had been drawn up by Congress.

When it became clear those measures would become law, Moscow ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people. (Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Pravin Char)

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