Russia sent a diplomatic note to the US, stating that Moscow will proceed following the principle of reciprocity regarding the admission of observers from US embassy employees during the presidential elections of 2018, TASS quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. The diplomat stressed that the decision will be made taking into account "their refusal to accept Russian observers from among our foreign missions staff in the US during the elections held last November."
Ryabkov added that he "does not see any problems" with the participation of US representatives in international observation missions. "This will all be decided on a common basis in the process of working out the issue of international election observation," he added.
Earlier on December 15th, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said that the elections in Russia are "being intervened with constantly" and in this, in particular, the staff of the US Embassy is engaged, Interfax reported. For example, the minister said, diplomats come to the rallies of opposition parties, including "non-system" ones.
"To take part in political life as an organizer, providing instructions to the opposition is contrary to all the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic relations. I'm not even talking about what the US embassy was doing when a coup d'etat in Ukraine was being prepared," Lavrov added.
A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Moscow, Maria Olson, called the minister's statements groundless, as well as "harmful and false," Interfax reported. According to her, such behavior is dangerous, as it undermines the work on improving bilateral relations, "which is supported by both our presidents."
On the same day, Federation Council Chairman, Valentina Matviyenko, said that she expects a record number of observers at the upcoming elections.
On October 2016, the staff of the Russian embassy in the United States indicated that the State Department had warned them that appearing at polling stations during the voting at the US presidential election could be regarded as a criminal offense. Russian diplomats also said that they received "threats" regarding election observation.
Ryabkov then warned about the possibility of retaliatory measures on the part of Russia and stated that "the Americans should not count on the presence of diplomats <...> at the elections that will be held in Russia.”