Russia Accuses U.S. of Disrespecting Its Flag by Removing It at Night

Russia is accusing U.S. authorities of illegally removing its flag from Moscow's consulate in Seattle, which is under sanctions.

The U.S. government ordered the closure of the Russian diplomatic mission's Seattle-based compound last month, as part of an international act of defiance against the poisoning of an ex-Russian double agent in the U.K. The Russian flag still flew over the consulate building until recently and the Russian Embassy in the U.S. has blasted U.S. authorities for removing it.

"Today, under the cover of night the state flag of the Russian Federation was removed from the building of the Russian consulate in Seattle by American officials," the embassy's account wrote on Facebook. "These illegal actions can not be regarded otherwise but unacceptable treatment to the Russian national symbol and yet another example of the blatant violation of norms of the international law by the official Washington."

The embassy demanded the reinstatement of the flag and reiterated Russia's opposition to the closure of both the Seattle consulate and other diplomatic properties.

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A U.S. State Department official confirmed to Newsweek that the Russian flag had been taken down on Saturday from Samuel Hyde House, which served as the residence of the consulate until recently. Russian staff had already vacated the building but the flag was left behind, prompting U.S. officials to inform the Russian government of the fact and offering Moscow officials the chance to take back its flag, with whatever ceremony Moscow felt was appropriate.

The department encouraged Russian officials to remove the flag themselves, which they decided not to do, unlike U.S. officials, who opted to lower the American flag in the St. Petersburg consulate themselves, when Moscow ordered U.S. diplomats to leave the facility last month.

At the time, the U.S. mission held a brief ceremony, led by the deputy chief of mission, and lowered the flag, in keeping with the flag code. The department official told Newsweek that since the Russian mission refused to honor their flag in this way, the U.S. government had done so, and would now return the Russian state symbol to the Russian Embassy. The official did not refer to Moscow's request for its flag to continue flying over the vacated consulate building.

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A Russian flag is pictured above the residence of the consulate general of Russia at the historic Samuel Hyde House in Seattle, Washington, on April 2. The Russian mission has now accused the U.S. of inappropriately taking down the flag from the vacated consulate. Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

So far, Russia and the U.S. have launched sanctions against one another's diplomatic missions several times, going back to the previous U.S. administration. President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats under suspicion of meddling in the last U.S. election and closed luxury compounds in New York and Maryland. Moscow has persistently said that it did not interfere in the election, so it argues that its closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and other sanctions against the mission are legitimate responses to illegal sanctions.