The U.S. State Department says it has stripped five Russian honorary consuls of their accreditation in response to the harassment of its own staff in Russia.
"This action is being taken in response to continued Russian interference with our diplomatic and consular operations in Russia, including, but not limited to, widespread harassment of our personnel, as well as the forced closure of the American Center in Moscow and 28 American Spaces throughout Russia," spokesman Mark Toner said on January 22.
Toner warned Washington is "prepared to take further appropriate measures if there are additional efforts to impede" its diplomatic and consular activities in Russia.
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed outrage at the move against the consuls in California, Utah, Minnesota, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused U.S. "security services" of carrying out "provocations" against employees of Russian diplomatic missions.
Zakharova alleged the decision continues Washington's "policy aimed at curbing ties" with Moscow.
The State Department spokesman, however, said formal diplomatic relations would not be hurt by Washington's tit-for-tat move.
"This does not affect Russia's formal diplomatic operations, including its embassy, consulates general, or its cultural center in Washington, D.C.," Toner added.
Based on reporting by AFP and TASS