Wednesday 22 November 2017

Firefighters attend Russian consulate in San Francisco following order to close

The Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco (Eric Risberg/AP)
The Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco (Eric Risberg/AP)

Acrid, black smoke has been coming from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco a day after the US government ordered its closure.

Firefighters who arrived at the scene were turned away by consulate officials who came from inside the building.

An Associated Press reporter heard people who came from inside the building tell firefighters that there was no problem and that consulate staff were burning unidentified items in a fireplace.

Mindy Talamadge, a spokeswoman from the San Francisco Fire Department, said the department received a call about the smoke and sent a crew to investigate but determined the smoke was coming from the chimney.

"They had a fire going in their fireplace," she said.

Ms Talmadge said she did not know what they were burning on a day when normally cool San Francisco temperatures were particularly high.

"It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace," she said.

The consulate's workers are hurrying to shut Russia's oldest consulate in the US.

The order for Russia to vacate the consulate and an official diplomatic residence in San Francisco - home to a long-standing community of Russian emigres and technology workers - escalated an already tense diplomatic stand-off between Washington and Moscow.

The deadline for the consulate to close is Saturday.

AP

Russia accused the US of gross violations of international law in its order to Moscow to close the Russian consulate in San Francisco by Saturday.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US "special services" intend to search the consulate on Saturday. S

She said the US also plans to search apartments in San Francisco used by Russian diplomats and their families. Ms Zakharova said that involves the families leaving their apartments for 10 to 12 hours so officials can search.

The State Department is not commenting specifically on whether officials plan to search the premises.

But the State Department said that as of Saturday, access to the consulate will only be granted with State Department permission.

The State Department said it will "secure and maintain the properties in keeping with our responsibilities".

AP

Press Association

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