White House Orders Shutdown Of Mysterious Russian-Owned Properties
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Obama administration has struck back against Russia for their alleged interference in the U.S. elections. And one retaliation was the closing of two estates where Russian diplomats would retreat for weekends and summers, one on Long Island and one in Centreville, Md.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
These estates are also called dachas, the Russian word for a country home. Russian diplomats here in the U.S. have lived in dachas since the Cold War, according to Steve Hall. He's a retired CIA Russian operations officer.
STEVE HALL: These recreational compounds were used sort of get away from the embassy, to get away from the pressures of working and living in very close proximity to everybody. You could get out and just sort of relax in the countryside.
SIEGEL: Both compounds are luxury estates. The property in Maryland covers 45 acres on a peninsula just off Chesapeake Bay with a mansion and cottages alongside a pool and tennis courts. Steve Hall says there are two reasons why Obama would evict the Russians.
HALL: It's possible that some of the intelligence led them to speculate or believe that the Russians were using these residential compounds for some sort of espionage activity. The second possible explanation is that it would simply be an irritant and would send a message to the Russians that, you know, we are displeased, and it would be sort of an annoyance.
SHAPIRO: The administration offered no proof of any spying at these sites. And it's not just the Russians affected by their closing. In Maryland, the eviction will leave a void for nearby American resident Bonnie Delph. She's lived near the Russian estate for decades and remembers meeting the diplomats crabbing on the beach.
BONNIE DELPH: They would come around with a little rowboat. And even though we were side by side, we couldn't speak to them. And they - you know, we grinned, and we laughed, and we did all those things. But they used to throw their crabs to the bottom of their boat and then take a screwdriver and kill the crabs. And I tried to explain to them that, you know, we steam them live. And when they went home, they boiled them. So I thought that was quite funny. It was different than us.
SIEGEL: Besides how they cooked their crabs, Bonnie Delph says the Russians weren't so different than any other residents of the area.
SHAPIRO: But now they've been asked to leave. According to the State Department, both the estates were closed today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.