On December 7, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the United States government is trying to “significantly complicate” the work of Russian diplomats in the U.S. by imposing strict travel restrictions. She threatened that Russia would “respond” in kind.
Zakharova said most Russian diplomats in the U.S. “are not allowed to go beyond 40 kilometers from their respective diplomatic missions” without “several days” notice to the U.S. State Department. She added that in diplomacy “everything is based on the principle of reciprocity” and that “U.S. diplomats in Russia will be treated similarly. Once again, we are forced to respond.”
In a response to a query from Polygraph.info, a U.S. State Department official wrote that the current restrictions are based on a long-standing reciprocal agreement between Russia and the United States that dates back to the Soviet Union period.
Russian diplomats are required to provide 24-hour “advance notification for any travel beyond a 25-mile radius from the cities in which the Russians have a diplomatic or consular presence,” the official wrote.
Similarly “American diplomats in Moscow are required by the Russian government to provide advance notification of internal domestic travel to the Russian Foreign Ministry on a similar basis,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Zakharova’s assertion that “they plan to deprive Russian diplomats of even that possibility” was an apparent reference to language in the Intelligence Authorization Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 30.
The bill, which was not acted upon by the U.S. Senate before its winter recess, does not impose any additional distance or notification restrictions on Russian diplomats.
It calls for additional inter-agency coordination within the U.S. government to monitor the travel of Russian diplomats.
Specifically, it tasks the U.S. Secretary of State to coordinate with the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence to “take necessary action to secure full compliance by Russian personnel and address any noncompliance.”
The bill also requires the State Department to submit a quarterly report “detailing the number of known or suspected violations” of any travel requirements.
For the bill to become law, it will require reintroduction of the legislation in the House and Senate next year when a new Congress convenes.
Russian expert Paul Goble told Polygraph.info that while the bill “clearly reflects the thinking of many in the Congress, the measure has not been taken up by the Senate, which means it is not close to becoming a law.”
Contrary to Zakharova’s allegations, Goble added that Russian diplomats’ work “would not be complicated. The U.S. government will simply know more about what they (Russian diplomats) are doing.”