Russian official says ‘almost’ near deal with Trump administration for return of diplomatic compounds

A Russian official said after a high-level meeting with Trump administration officials that the two countries have “almost” reached a deal for the U.S. to return two diplomatic compounds to Russian control.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had just left the meeting at the U.S. State Department early Monday evening when he responded to a shouted question about whether the two countries are close to a deal on the Russian compounds.

“Almost, almost,” he said.

Ryabkov met with U.S. Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon in Washington –- the highest level meeting since the two countries’ presidents, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, met at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7.

Monday’s meeting comes as the Trump administration faces intense pressure from Russia on one side and the U.S. Congress on the other over the fate of the two compounds, or dachas, in New York and Maryland.

The State Department has not commented on the meeting.

The Obama administration in December 2016 cut off Russia’s access to the dachas and expelled 35 Russian diplomats in response to Russia’s cyberattacks on the 2016 U.S. election.

Russia has been losing patience with the Trump administration over the issue, threatening to retaliate if the compounds are not returned soon.

“It appears that the Russian side has no choice, it is time to retaliate,” the chairman of Russia’s Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee told Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news agency.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov took a slightly softer tone, telling reporters that Russia hopes the White House can still find the “political wisdom and political will” to return the dachas.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, second from left, and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, right, arrive at the State Department in Washington, July 17, 2017.

But the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said any action toward returning the dachas would be “a major affront to Congress.” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, is just the latest to express his opposition; two bipartisan groups of Senators have previously written letters to the Trump administration, urging them not to return the compounds, including Republicans Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Johnny Isakson.

The Senate passed new sanctions legislation in June that would codify existing sanctions, implement new ones and force the Trump administration to seek Congressional…

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