By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russia protested to the United States on October 11 over a claim that Russian flags were “stolen” from its vacated consulate in San Francisco, a charge immediately disputed by the U.S. State Department.
The Russian Embassy to the United States said on its Russian-language Twitter account that flags were “stolen” from the building, and called it “the latest shameful event” in a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic reprisals between the countries this year.
“We demand the American authorities return our state symbols,” the post said alongside pictures of a bare flagpole on top of the consulate building.
The U.S. State Department denied that the flags were stolen.
“The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings,” a State Department official said in e-mails to reporters.
Russian news agencies cited the Russian embassy as saying it had lodged a formal protest over the incident.
“A strong protest was sent to the American side in relation to Russian flags being torn down at our diplomatic properties in San Francisco, which are under the control of U.S. authorities,” Russian news agencies quoted the embassy as saying in a statement.
“We consider this as an extremely unfriendly step,” the embassy said.
Washington ordered Moscow to vacate the consulate and Russian trade annexes in Washington and New York at the beginning of September, steps intended to produce parity in the sizes of the Russian and U.S. diplomatic missions.
Earlier on October 11, Russia’s Foreign Ministry repeated a threat to demand further cuts in the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, also with the goal of achieving parity, after ordering a cut in U.S. personnel to 455, effective last month.