The Russian Embassy in Washington has demanded that a flag removed from the now-closed Russian Consulate in Seattle be put back.
The embassy claims that the U.S. removal of the flag "under the cloak of night" over the weekend violated international law and was "unacceptable treatment" of the Russian national symbol.
But U.S. State Department officials countered on May 2 that the Russian flag was lowered "respectfully" from the Seattle consul-general's residence after it was vacated last month under orders from the department.
While the Russian Embassy said the mansion is still its property and the flag should still be flying there, the department countered that the house was built on U.S. government-owned land.
The State Department said it asked Russian consulate personnel to take the flag down themselves before they vacated the premises.
U.S. officials say that U.S. diplomats took down an American flag flying at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg with a brief ceremony when they were similarly ordered to leave by Moscow.
"Since the Russians chose not to treat their own flag with such respect, we have done so for them," the department said, adding that it will return the flag removed in Seattle to the Russian Embassy.
The Seattle Consulate was shut down in response to allegations that the Russian government poisoned a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom with a nerve-agent in March.