Washington's conditions for the return of Russia's diplomatic property in the US are nothing but blackmail, according to Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the Russian Upper House's International Affairs Committee.
On Thursday, Deputy Assistant to the US President Sebastian Gorka said that the US may return two diplomatic compounds confiscated by the Obama administration to Moscow, if it sees "acts of good faith" from the Kremlin, similar to the recently brokered ceasefire in Syria.
By considering a release of the Russian diplomatic compounds that have remained sealed since December, Washington wants to leave the door open for rapprochement with Russia, Gorka said in an interview with CNN.
Commenting on the matter, Dzabarov stressed that the situation in Syria has nothing to do with diplomatic property, and that Washington should return it to Russia "without any preconditions."
"Talking about certain conditions to be made in exchange for having access to diplomatic property looks like trading and even blackmail," Jabarov said.
He warned that Russia may respond in kind to Sebastian Gorka's statement.
"We have the right to retaliate unless the situation changes. We can do so because correlating our right to our own property with our political steps is the wrong move," Jabarov said.
His remarks were preceded by Moscow's warning that it is preparing a "tough response" to the move.
"We assume that this issue can be solved in a civilized way, within the framework of the law and probably humanely, given the emotions roiling in Washington," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on air of the program "60 Minutes" on Rossiya 1 television channel.
She added that Russia had "different ways" to settle the issue, and that it would not give up its interests.
On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that Russia is ready to expel US diplomats in response to Washington's failure to return its diplomatic property in New York and Maryland.
"If the US partners do not understand differently, we will at some point have to act in this direction," Zakharova said at her weekly briefing, noting that the "long pause" on the issue has "dragged on."
The issue was also addressed by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said at a joint news conference with the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday that Moscow is "outraged" over the fact that Washington has not yet resolved the situation with Russian diplomatic property in the US, adding that Moscow is working out its response to the US actions.In December 2016, the administration of former president Barack Obama imposed a set of punitive measures against Russia over Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election and harassment of US diplomats stationed in Russia.
The sanctions included the closure of Russian diplomatic compounds in Washington and New York, which the White House claimed had been used as a cover for Russian spying activities in the United States.