The Quiet Russian House at the Heart of a Loud Diplomatic Dispute

MOSCOW — The lids of the barbecue grills in the backyard of an unassuming wooden house outside Moscow were still open on Friday morning, apparently ready for grilling on this unseasonably warm summer day. Picnic tables next to a swing set and jungle gym were uncovered and clean.

The house, nestled in the Silver Forest outside Moscow, has long been a leafy getaway for American diplomatic staff members serving in Russia. But now the house, which looks like it could have been transplanted whole from Maine, Michigan or Vermont, is at the center of an angry diplomatic row between Washington and the Kremlin that is escalating quickly.

On Friday morning, the Russian foreign ministry announced that Moscow is seizing this country property, which Russians call a “dacha,” meaning country retreat, and a storage facility in Moscow, in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Russia passed by the Senate on Thursday and sent to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature.

“The use of all the storage facilities on Dorozhnaya street in Moscow and the country house in Serebryany Bor will be suspended from use by the U.S. Embassy,” the foreign ministry statement said. “Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting U.S.’ interests on a retaliatory basis.”

On a visit to Finland yesterday, President Vladimir Putin hinted a Russian response might be coming to what he called the “anti-Russian hysteria” in the United States.

“We have seen a lot of provocation — illegal diplomatic property seizure, illegal sanctions that contradicting W.T.O. norms,” Putin said, referring to the World Trade Organization. “We practice restraint with this, but someday we’ll have to answer to such hostility.”

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Image: A dacha in Serebryanny Bor given to the US Embassy in Russia

A dacha in Serebryanny Bor given to the U.S. Embassy in Russia. As of August 1, Russia suspends the use of the dacha by the U.S. Embassy.