The Trump administration reportedly might be ready to hand back to Russia two diplomatic compounds where officials were booted last December as punishment for Moscow's interference in the election.
President Barack Obama had charged the compounds – one near New York City and the other on Maryland's Eastern Shore – were being "used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes" and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them. He also expelled 35 Russian "intelligence operatives."
Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze – imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine – on construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, The Washington Post reported.
Two days later, the U.S. position changed, the Post reported.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington, the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, the Post reported.
Senior Tillerson adviser R.C. Hammond said "the U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements," and the next senior- level meeting between the two governments will be in June in St. Petersburg, the Post reported.
In a news conference at the Russian Embassy after his meetings with Tillerson and President Donald Trump, Lavrov said of the compound closures, "Everyone, in particular the Trump administration, is aware that those actions were illegal," the Post reported.
"The dialogue between Russia and the U.S. is now free from the ideology that characterized it under the Barack Obama administration."
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