WASHINGTON/MOSCOW The United States said on Friday it had revoked the credentials of five of six honorary Russian consuls to retaliate for what it said was Russia's harassment of U.S. diplomats, prompting an angry response from Moscow.
Honorary consuls are typically U.S. citizens or green card holders who perform consular services on behalf of a foreign government, a U.S. official said, saying the five were located in California, Florida, Minnesota, Utah and Puerto Rico.
A sixth, in Colorado, will not be affected.
"This action is being taken in response to continued Russian interference with our diplomatic and consular operations in Russia, including, but not limited to, widespread harassment of our personnel, as well as the forced closure of the American Center in Moscow," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
"We are prepared to take further appropriate measures if there are additional efforts to impede our diplomatic and consular activities in Russia," he added.
While they cooperate on some issues, such as curbing Iran's nuclear program, ties between the two nations have deteriorated over more than a decade in part because of what Washington sees as Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule.
Russia's foreign ministry said it was angered by the move to strip most of its U.S. honorary consuls of their accreditation.
In a statement, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States was spreading anti-Russian propaganda and U.S. intelligence was conducting "provocations" against Russian diplomats in the United States and elsewhere.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington and by Christian Lowe in Moscow; Editing by Jack Stubbs and Dan Grebler)