Monday was the deadline for the Russian Consulate to close in Seattle. The Trump administration last week had ordered it shuttered.
The mood on the 25th floor of One Union Square was subdued compared to the flurry of activity that enveloped the downtown Seattle office last week.
Monday was the deadline for the Russian Consulate to close in Seattle. Security officers from the U.S. State Department stood guard outside the office suite, which was the last Russian Consulate on the West Coast. A sign with orange writing behind officers, in the entry of the consulate, read “Closed.”
A State Department spokesperson said personnel accredited to the Seattle consulate, including the Consul General, have to transfer to another U.S. mission or leave the country and that the office space and residence can no longer be used. “The Russian government will no longer be able to use the properties for diplomatic consular purposes. We will follow our standard procedures and fulfill our responsibilities appropriately,” the spokesman said.
Last Thursday, the unmistakable sound of moving, packing tape being stretched across boxes, emanated from behind the window where visitors to the consulate were greeted. A man working at the consulate on Thursday told a reporter, “Sorry sir. There is nothing I can say. Just regular moving of boxes.”
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The consulate and the consulate residence in Madison Park were ordered closed by the Trump administration in retaliation for Russia’s alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian intelligence agent and his daughter in Britain. The United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed Russia’s Seattle operation, which the White House identified as an outpost for intelligence agents.
Russia responded by closing the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg and expelling 60 U.S. diplomats.
A former special agent in charge of the FBI Seattle office told The Seattle Times that consulates can be used to run covert activities and that the Seattle area has some tempting targets, such as Naval Base Kitsap with its fleet of Trident submarines and companies like Boeing and Microsoft.
On Thursday, packed boxes were being ferried down from the 25th floor to the loading dock and into a mid-sized moving van. On Monday, the loading dock was occupied by delivery trucks. Other than the security officers standing guard, there is little trace left of the Russians. The only external remnant of the consulate was the sign designating reserved street parking on Sixth Avenue for consulate vehicles. Last week the spot was occupied by a black van with black tinted windows and consulate plates.
The parking space was empty Monday.