- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 9, 2017

A top Russian official has has accused the FBI of planting incriminating material while conducting a search of its recently shuttered San Francisco consulate.

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, made the suggestion during a weekly press briefing Friday in the aftermath of the U.S. State Department seizing the compound last weekend amid a tat-for-tat spat between Washington and Moscow.

“What was their goal?” Ms. Zakharova asked, The Moscow Times reported. “Is it not an attempt by the American special services to arrange an anti-Russian provocation and perhaps either to plant compromising materials in the building or to somehow find them later?”

“It looks as if the American intelligence agencies are trying to organize an anti-Russian provocation and may even plant compromising material in the building or discover them somehow in the future,” Ms. Zakharova continued, as translated by TASS, a state-owned news wire. “Because we don’t have the foggiest idea of what they are doing now.”

The FBI did not immediately respond to the spokeswoman’s claim.

The latest wave of expulsions involving U.S. and Russian officials began in Dec. 2016 when the Obama administration booted 35 alleged diplomats after intelligence officials concluded that Moscow interfered in last year’s White House race. Russia retaliated by ordering the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff there in half last month, and last week the State Department closed Russia’s compounds in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., much to Moscow’s chagrin.

“This behavior is inappropriate for an entity based on international law and a permanent member of the UN Security Council that pioneered the modern system of international relations,” Ms. Zakharova said Friday. “Unfortunately, it threatens to morph into not just an incident, but a new American practice.”

“How are you supposed to build dialogue and relations if you partner violates agreements after having accepted them, being a subject of international law?” she asked.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin with interfering in last year’s White House race to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by using state-sponsored hackers and propagandists, though Moscow has denied involvement.

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