White House officials could be inching toward giving back two Russian diplomatic compounds near New York City and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, according to a Washington Post report published Wednesday.
Russian officials were expelled from the the 14-acre estate on Long Island and several buildings in Maryland last year after the Obama administration leveled new sanctions against Russia for its interference in the US election.
The properties had been under Russian ownership since the Soviet Union was in power, according to The Post.
The matter is fraught with potential conflict because US intelligence officials and congressional lawmakers are deep into multiple investigations of Russia’s election meddling and the Trump campaign’s interactions with the Kremlin.
The compounds, which have enjoyed the protection of diplomatic immunity, have been claimed by the Russians as areas for rest and recreation for embassy and UN employees. However, officials say that surveillance reports provide evidence that the compounds were also used for other intelligence-related matters.
In December, President Barack Obama gave diplomats at the compounds 24 hours to leave as part of new sanctions levied against the Kremlin. Obama also identified 35 diplomats from Washington and San Francisco as “intelligence operatives” before giving them 72-hours to leave the US.
If the Trump administration gives Russia permission to reoccupy the compounds, it may invoke certain restrictions, including taking away diplomatic immunity, according to sources cited by The Post. If that happens, US law enforcement officials would not be prevented from entering the premises.