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Russia And U.S. Negotiate Russian Compounds Seized By U.S. Authorities


Russia wants its mansions back. These are two diplomatic compounds - one in Maryland, the other in New York. The Obama administration seized them to punish the Kremlin for election meddling. Russia says that seizure was criminal. Let's turn to NPR's Lucian Kim, who is in Moscow. Hi, Lucian.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So there was a meeting between Russia and U.S. officials about these properties yesterday. What happened?

KIM: Well, what we now know is that the meeting lasted about two hours. And when the deputy Russian foreign minister - Sergei Ryabkov - came out, he said they had almost reached an agreement. This morning, the Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement in which it said that Russia still has the right to retaliate and basically said that the ball is in the U.S. court.

GREENE: Has the right to retaliate. I mean, they're almost threatening the Trump administration, saying, we feel like we've reached a deal, but if you don't do something soon, we could retaliate. What could retaliation look like?

KIM: Well, there's been a lot of speculation in Russian state media over the last month or two. There's really been a steady drumbeat on this issue. The U.S. diplomats here in Moscow, they use a recreational building in a park, a so-called datcha. So that could be a target. There's also a warehouse of some kind that's been in discussion. And finally, there's the Anglo-American School, which American children but also children of rich Russians attend.

GREENE: You mentioned the datcha. I mean, the datcha is so much part of Russian culture. I mean, even - those properties that Russians go to to spend time on the weekend away from the city during the summer. They can be small. They can be large. But it's really important. Is this a lesson, like, don't mess with datchas, if that's what these things are?

KIM: Maybe. I think it also has to do with this idea of diplomatic reciprocity. President Putin back in December decided not to retaliate with these tit-for-tat actions. The Russians held back in the hope that relations with the U.S. would improve under President Trump. And since they really haven't, they're kind of upping the pressure now.

GREENE: Oh, so you see this as almost akin to some of the spy exchanges we saw. It was like, you know, the tit-for-tats we saw during the Cold War.

KIM: Well, from the Russian point of view, it's that, you know, they've refrained from retaliating. And since they haven't seen any real goodwill, any improvement in relations, they're ready to use that instrument now.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Lucian Kim reporting for us in Moscow about these two mansions that the Obama administration seized from Russia. And the Russians now want those mansions back. Thanks, Lucian.

KIM: Thanks, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF WE DRIFT FROM HERE'S "ILLUSORY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.
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