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    The State Department breaks into deserted Russian consulate in Seattle as it emerges that expelled spies were tracking ‘traitors’ to Putin

    US State Department officials have drilled out locks to inspect the former Russianconsul general’s Seattle residence, a day after Russian staff vacated the site, amidst claims that among them were spies plotting revenge attacks against expat ‘traitors’.
    President Donald Trump’s administration announced last month the diplomatic outpost would be closed and 60 Russian diplomats expelled nationwide to punish Moscow for its alleged role in poisoning an ex-spy in Britain.
    A locksmith behind a blue tarp drilled out the front gate’s lock on Wednesday, and that US officials moved on to the residence’s front door and a basement door, The Seattle Times reported.
    The Russian Embassy objected on Twitter, describing it as an invasion. 
    The Russians own the building and the US owns the land it sits on.
    The State Department said it conducted a residence walk-through to ensure the Russians had left
    It took the locksmith about 15 minutes before he was able to remove the locks to the front gate, according to the Times.
    The residence is located at 3726 E. Madison Street in Seattle. 
    It is a 12,000-square-foot home that was built over 100 years ago and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    The property, a three-story mansion with beautiful gardens that has been used mainly as a venue to host receptions, has been appraised at just over $3.8million, according to local tax records. 
    ‘We believe that one day it will be returned to us,’ said Nikolay Pukalov, head of the consular division of the Russian Embassy. 
    Our flag is above this property and it will remain there.’
    The State Department said it was doing inspections ‘to secure and protect the facilities and to confirm the Russian government personnel had vacated the premises.’
    Meanwhile, it was reported on Wednesday that law enforcement and intelligence officials believe that among the dozens of diplomats expelled last month were spies who were tracking Russian defectors and their families who had resettled in the US.
    Alleged Russian spies were casing an individual who was reportedly given a new identity by the CIA in order to protect him, officials told CNN.
    The alleged Russian espionage activities aroused concerns among American officials that President Vladimir Putin’s spy services were preparing to take action against accused traitors, the officials said.
    Russia’s intelligence agencies spied on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for at least five years before they were attacked with a nerve agent in March, the national security adviser to Britain’s prime minister said earlier this month.
    Mark Sedwill said in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that email accounts of Yulia had been targeted in 2013 by cyber specialists from Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.
    Sedwill also said in the letter, which was published by the government, that it was ‘highly likely that the Russian intelligence services view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination.’
    The Skripals were targeted by what London says was a nerve agent attack that left both of them critically ill for weeks.
    British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is highly likely that Moscow was behind the attack.   

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