Russian diplomatic villas in the US have been empty for three years. The Americans have restricted access to him, accusing Russia of using suburban homes for reconnaissance operations. Correspondents of the BBC went to Maryland, to see how country life of the Russian diplomats looked the part.
Photo: a video frame
The estate on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland belongs to Russia, but in December 2016, the Russians were never there.
Three years ago, on December 29, the administration of US President Barack Obama has imposed sanctions in response to cyber attacks during the presidential campaign in America in 2016. Moscow denied the accusations.
35 in addition to expulsions of Russian diplomats, the US blocked access to two country diplomatic residences in Maryland and new York. Both belong to Russia.
The white house said that these cottages, the Russians have used for intelligence purposes, without specifying how. The Kremlin also announced that the city officers of diplomatic missions have a rest.
Of the entire Russian diplomatic property, arrested in the United States, land in Maryland is the largest in area. 18,2 hectares of land with two mansions of the Georgian era, the Soviet Union acquired in 1972. The estate is located 108 km from the Russian Embassy in Washington.
Built by the financier John Jacob Raskob, it is in the time invested in the construction of the Empire state building in new York.
Raskob built on the site of Maryland mansion a three-story and one two-storey house with attic for their children.
After his death the property several times changed owners until it was purchased by the Soviet government for 1.2 million dollars, wrote the New York Times. A small country house, a tennis court, a football field — all this appeared in the residence when she became a Soviet departmentu.
A mansion with 35 rooms with a wine cellar, 12 bathrooms and 13 fireplaces, was used as the residence of the Ambassador. In the rest of the house for the weekend came the Embassy staff.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when this property went to Russia, according to the Associated Press, it cost $ 3 million.
Regattas and parties
Locals told bi-Bi-si, that relations with employees of the Russian diplomatic mission, they have developed good-neighborly.
Worker bordering on the Embassy villas farm John Whaley remembered how he was once invited to lunch, Yuri Dubinin (worked as extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the USA in 1986-1990).
And in September, he said, diplomats arranged a party and invited the local: “In General, a day of fun. They were invited for dinner and cocktails. They’re a group, its was the music played”.
Photo: a video frame
The head of the local municipality Stephen Wilson spree diplomatic staff in the cottages, too, remember. “Bonfires, an awful-sounding Russian song,” laughing he enumerates. He is in the Embassy residence did not happen.
“Everything was fenced. Interaction with people who periodically came back, there was very little,” says Wilson. According to him, with the cottages was watched by FBI agents. Agents conducted surveillance of Wilson’s beach — he lives across the river from the ambassadorial residence.
“I never heard any stories about the dark deeds there, about submarines or laser lights at night, nothing”, he said.
John Whaley added that most of the time in the cottages lived only a technical staff of eight people, and diplomatic officials came only on weekends or on holidays.
Photo: a video frame
Local farmer Peter Schaefer (his land bordered by Russian cottages) nostalgic for conversations I had with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin: “I think he is the most intelligent of people I have ever met”. Dobrynin was the head of Soviet diplomatic mission in the United States from 1962 to 1986.
“Once we were sitting with him over a bottle of wine. On the table side stood a half of a watermelon, — says the farmer. — He asked me: “Peter, would you like a slice of watermelon?”— I said to him, “Mr. Dobrynin, is now the middle of January, where did you get it?” “What do you think? —he answered. — Fidel!”
Schaeffer recalls how they were together over a bottle of wine discussing the Cuban missile crisis, and criticizes the Obama administration for the decision to close Russia’s access to the dachas.
Photo: a video frame
“Obama kicked them out because I wanted to complicate the situation for join the post of President,” said the farmer. Fan of Donald trump, he berates the state Department, which in 2016 is responsible for the protection of the Embassy of the cottages.
According to him, Russian diplomats paid him 4200 dollars a year to Schaeffer maintained in good condition the road to the cottages.
“No one now on the roads doesn’t care, I have them for the state Department to repair will not, what the hell,” says he.
As Russia tries to return to the Embassy dacha
From 2016, in addition to the arrest of cottages in Maryland and new York, the us authorities also in the framework of strengthening the sanctions regime has closed access to the Russian consulates and the residences of the consuls General in San Francisco and Seattle, as well as areas of trade missions in Washington and new York. In September 2019 edition of Yahoo News, citing anonymous sources representing the former employees of the White house wrote that houses in Maryland and new York were used as bases of Russian intelligence.
Russia is seeking the return of their property. In July 2017 and the foreign Ministry, and the state Department said that close to an agreement about removal of arrest from the cottages, but it never happened. The Russian foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of violating the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961.
The US rejected the accusations. According to the American law on foreign missions, the Secretary of state may require a foreign mission to stop the use of any real estate if necessary to protect the national interests of the United States.
In September 2017, President Vladimir Putin instructed the foreign Ministry to file a lawsuit in the U.S., to bring access to departmenti. The fate of the claim remains unclear.
“Kommersant” wrote that to represent Russia’s interests in the courts of the United States is the American company White & Case. However, sources in the government admitted that the chances to achieve removal of arrest from property is minimal.
According to the American law on foreign missions for diplomatic property is not used year, the Secretary of state may decide on its sales.
Media reported that even Secretary of state Rex Tillerson urged Russia to sell the property, but Moscow refused. In may 2019, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov said in an interview bi-Bi-si, that “hard version” with the implementation of the Russian departmenet at auction by the us authorities “until not considered”.
“To my bitterness, nothing happens, — said Antonov. — We continue to not only not return, but we are not even allowed on the threshold of our property.” Antonov asked the state Department for permission to check what was happening on the Russian objects inside, but was refused. “We look at our buildings from the outside and we see that there’s someone, there’s something done,” — he stressed.