Russia Will Take U.S. To Court For 'Occupation,' Vows Moscow

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov addresses a news conference in Damascus, Syria. Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Russia has compared the recent U.S. decision to close a Russian consulate and offices to an "occupation" and confirmed the decision will come to court soon.

"We underline that presence on such premises and on such territory without the consent of the rightful owner is occupation," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency on Friday. Although "occupation" is often associated with military and conflict situations, Ryabkov insisted that it is also "totally appropriate for use with respect to what the Americans have done."

The U.S. decision last month to close Russia's consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, D.C., and New York is the latest move in a chain of attempts on both sides to punish the other by streamlining their respective diplomatic missions. The U.S. struck first in December, announcing the shrinking of the Russian Embassy mission by 35 staffers as punishment for alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election. The move targeted intelligence personnel and also closed luxury property in upstate New York once available to Russia.

Despite initially announcing Moscow would not respond, the Russian government changed its mind and struck back harshly in July, barring 755 U.S. diplomats and staff from the U.S. mission in Russia. The size of the ban alarmed Washington, who then announced the closure of the annexes and the West Coast consulate, which was promptly searched by authorities.

Ryabkov said Russia would "insist" on referring to the situation as an occupation to the public, "and the Americans will be told this too.

"American special services agents came on our territory, which has diplomatic and consular immunity, and started opening drawers, folders, looking through rooms, lifting ceiling panels. What sort of search is this? If this is a simple search, I do not know what they must call a raid."

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the Russian government to bring the issue to court earlier this week; Ryabkov said the work on it is ongoing.

"This will happen in the near future," he told state news agency Itar-Tass on Friday. "The question is quite serious. We need to prepare ourselves well, and that is precisely what we are doing now."