Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco
The Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco was a diplomatic mission in the 2790 Green Street building in Pacific Heights, San Francisco. It was operated by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The building of the former consulate remains government property of Russia.
The first Russian vice consul in San Francisco was Peter Kostromitinov, an agent of the Russian-American Company and a Fort Ross manager. He took his post in 1852. The first consulate of the Soviet Union in San Francisco opened in 1933. At first 2563 Divisadero Street held the consulate; it did so until 1948. It later moved to 24 California Street and the James Flood Building. On June 23, 1973, it moved into its current location.
In 2011 the consulate bought new headstones, for a total of $20,000, for Russian sailors who died fighting a fire in San Francisco in 1863. The graves were installed on Mare Island in Vallejo, California. The city government protested the plan, saying that it goes against historical preservation.
In December 2016, four Russian diplomats posted to the consulate, including a chef were declared persona non grata due to alleged espionage, in retaliation for Russian interference in the United States presidential election.
On 31 August 2017, the State Department ordered the post closed by September 2, 2017. Before the consulate was closed, smoke was seen billowing out of the building, suggesting sensitive materials were being destroyed.
Members of the United States intelligence community, including Kathleen Puckett, considered the Russian consulate a major hub of Russian espionage operations, tasked with gaining information about developments from Silicon Valley. In 1984, a United States government report indicated that there may have been approximately 50 Soviet spies operating out of the San Francisco Consulate, primarily targeting Silicon Valley.
A network of antenna and other electronic communication equipment is located on the roof of the consulate building, and is allegedly used to transmit information to submarines or trawlers located off the Pacific coast in international waters.
- Zaverukha, Lydia B. and Nina Bogdan. Russian San Francisco (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing, 2009. ISBN 0738571679, 9780738571676. p. 61.
- США оставят в собственности РФ здание генконсульства в Сан-Франциско Regnum.Ru, 31 August 2017.
- Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation mid.ru, 3 September 2017.
- Jones, Carolyn. "Vallejo fights Russian Consulate over headstones" (Archive). San Francisco Chronicle. Tuesday April 26, 2011. Retrieved on June 4, 2015.
- Sernoffsky, Evan; Wildermuth, John (December 29, 2016). "Russian diplomats in San Francisco among those told to leave U.S." San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016.
The State Department didn't immediately identify the diplomats being expelled or say how many were working in San Francisco. All 35, department officials said, "were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status," which is political-speak for spying.
- Utehs, Katie (December 30, 2016). "Consulate says four employees expelled from San Francisco". KGO-TV. Archived from the original on January 1, 2017.
Petrov confirmed that four of the 35 diplomats asked to leave the country work at the San Francisco consulate. Family members of those employees are also leaving [...] Petrov says the consulate's chef is included in the expulsion.
- Achieving Parity in Diplomatic Missions U.S. Department of State, August 31, 2017.
- Gearan, Anne (August 31, 2017). "Trump administration orders three Russian diplomatic facilities in U.S. closed". Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
- The Associated Press (September 1, 2017). "The Latest: San Francisco Russia consulate starts move-out". The Washington Post.
Acrid, black smoke has been seen pouring from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure on 2-day notice due to espionage and amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia. The building was seized by FBI and the consulate closed but residents in the building were allowed to stay until October 1, 2017. The building has a large number of apartments occupied by Russian employees. The Russian flag is still flying on top of the building as of September 24th. 2017.
- Tatum, Sophie; Koran, Laura (September 2, 2017). "Smoke spotted coming from Russian consulate ahead of facility closure". CNN.
- Dorfman, Zach (December 14, 2017). "The Secret History of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017.
- "The Soviet consulate general in San Francisco, located in..." UPI. October 12, 1984.
In recent years there have been frequent reports that 50 or more spies report to the San Francisco consulate general. Experts on electronic warfare say the consulate is the collection base for extensive electronic surveillance gear operated by spies at work in California, especially in the high-technology Silicon Valley south of San Francisco.
- Keller, Bill (April 10, 1987). "SOVIET CHARGES U.S. WITH BUGGING". The New York Times.
Another official, Ivan N. Miroshkin of the Foreign Ministry's Security Service, said some of the bugging devices had been found at the new Soviet compound in Washington in the last few days, and others had been collected earlier at the consulate in San Francisco, in apartments of Soviet employees of the United Nations, in the trade mission in Washington, and in a country house outside Washington. [...] He said security officers had discovered a tunnel with listening devices under the San Francisco consulate.
- Watkins, Ali (June 1, 2017). "Russia escalates spy games after years of U.S. neglect". Politico. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
The diplomats, widely assumed to be intelligence operatives, would eventually turn up in odd places, often in middle-of-nowhere USA. One was found on a beach, nowhere near where he was supposed to be. In one particularly bizarre case, relayed by a U.S. intelligence official, another turned up wandering around in the middle of the desert. Interestingly, both seemed to be lingering where underground fiber-optic cables tend to run.
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