U.S. Dept. of State officials have given the diplomats until April 24th to leave the property that has been used as the residence for the Russian government’s Consulate General in Seattle since the department’s Office of Foreign Missions acquired the 1910-built landmark in what King County records say was a $1.1 million transaction in April 1994.
The United States has withdrawn its consent for Russia’s consular post in Seattle, “in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” CHS is told. The state department could not provide details of any financial arrangements related to the Russian use of the U.S. government-owned diplomatic residence.
Monday’s decision comes amid the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats around the country in response, officials have said, to a nerve agent attack on a former double agent in the United Kingdom. An earlier move to shutter the Russian consulate in San Francisco came in October. This time, the diplomatic maneuverings shared national headline space with the fallout from Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels.
As part of the crackdown, the U.S. government ordered the Russian Consulate in Seattle’s downtown One Union Square closed by April 2. “Senior administration officials said they believe it has served as a key outpost in Russia’s intelligence operations, in part because of its proximity to a U.S. submarine base as well as Boeing manufacturing facilities,” the Washington Post reported.
The ripples of spying and diplomatic intrigue between the United States and Russia has been felt before in the area. From around 2004 to 2009, investigators said a couple living in a Belmont Ave E apartment were working as part of a Russian spy ring. Meanwhile, Roman Seleznev, son of a Russian lawmaker and a prisoner once reportedly dangled in exchange for Edward Snowden, last year was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his hacking exploits that included ripping off Capitol Hill’s dearly departed Broadway Grill.
Monday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan raised the Seleznev episode as she also took a a few shots at the Trump administration’s sudden move against Russia. “The real question is why it takes so long to stand with our allies and take action against a government who continues to threaten and undermine our democracy,” Durkan said in a statement. “When Seattle was previously targeted by Russian hackers, we acted and brought Roman Seleznev to justice. Attacks from Russian intelligence, including interference in the 2016 election, need to be met with aggressive enforcement against those who participate or cooperate.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal also threw a few punches. “It’s important that the United States is coordinating with Canada and the European Union to punish Russia. Standing strong with our allies is essential,” she said. “The action to expel diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle, given its strategic location, is a small step in holding Russia accountable. However, this action is almost ironic, given the president is dragging his feet to do anything against Putin or Russia for interfering in the 2016 election – taking months to implement the bipartisan sanctions that passed through Congress last year.”
It’s not clear what the state department’s next move will be in Madison Park. Located not far from the gates of the private Broadmoor neighborhood along E Madison, the soon-to-be-emptied historic Samuel Hyde House is worth millions and is recognized as a landmark by the city and by the National Register of Historic Places.
While Seattle is busy expelling its Russian diplomats and an eviction of the nation consular residence is underway, meanwhile, Capitol Hill is readying a new home for the Mexican Consulate in Seattle inside the building formerly home to the Harvard Exit movie theater at Broadway and Roy.
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