Russia Warns Trump to Return U.S. Mansions or Face 'Retaliatory Measures'

Russian compound in NY
A Russian compound, which was ordered closed and vacated, is seen in Upper Brookville, on New York's Long Island, on December 30, 2016. Rashid Umar Abbasi/Reuters

Russia is pushing the Trump administration to once again allow its diplomats access to luxury diplomatic properties in the U.S. Moscow has warned that it will retaliate if access is not restored, after a meeting on the issue in Washington failed to bring results this week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Monday that Russia was demanding the return of the two properties in Maryland and New York. "We think that the diplomatic property must be returned without any conditions and talks," Peskov added.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington, D.C., on Monday. A Foreign Ministry readout of the meeting, published on Tuesday, claimed the two discussed "the illegal seizure of Russian property in the United States by the Barack Obama Administration."

In December, Obama stripped Russian officials of the right to access the two diplomatic compounds as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came with the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

Russia decided it would not respond to the move at the time, and the Kremlin said it would reserve its right to respond "based on the policies of the Trump Administration," not Obama's. Trump, president-elect at the time, commended the Russian decision as "very smart." However, that decision is apparently now being reconsidered by Moscow.

"Russia stressed that if Washington does not address this and other concerns, including persistent efforts to hinder the operation of Russia's diplomatic missions, Russia has the right to take retaliatory measures in accordance with the principle of reciprocity," the readout from Ryabkov and Shannon's meeting read.

"It is now up to Washington to take the relevant steps," the ministry's statement concluded.

The Trump administration's first few months brought a scandal about possible links to Russia during the campaign, prompting multiple investigations into the matter. Meanwhile, Moscow has pressed the U.S. government to give its diplomats access to the compounds again. The two properties on U.S. soil are currently out of bounds for Russian diplomatic personnel because of Obama's decision.

The statement marks a general tailoring of Russia's expectations for the Trump administration, Russian policy expert Mark Galeotti says.

"I think the early mildness was born precisely from a hope that they could leverage Trump's apparent Putinophilia, and the Kremlin didn't want to do anything to risk undermining that," he says. "Even back last year, it was clear, talking to people in MID [the Foreign Ministry], that they considered Trump delicate and unpredictable, to be handled with care. Now, though, as it is clear that there is no grand bargain on the horizon, it's back to business as usual."

Ahead of Trump's first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, some U.S. senators pleaded with him not to budge on the compound seizure, fearing it would "embolden" the Kremlin. A bipartisan trio of senators, writing on behalf of both chambers of Congress, argued that "there is a broad consensus...against rewarding the Kremlin for its bad behavior."