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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Official: Spaso House Spat May Take Years

A Russian official forecast Monday that it might take years to resolve a rent dispute over the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow.

The latest 20-year lease was signed in 1985, but a plunge in the value of the ruble has left the rent on Spaso House -- an elegant 18th century mansion in the heart of Moscow -- at less than $25 a year.

Yevgeny Ustinov, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry department that provides services for diplomatic corps, complains the United States failed to pay even that amount for 1993, and Russia annulled the housing contract.

"The United States violated an important condition in the contract, and we had the right to do so,'' he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Ustinov said the U.S. side "at times transfers money for the lease of Spaso House, but we don't accept it and send it back.''

Moscow is proposing a new contract with an unspecified higher rent. The U.S. side, Ustinov said, maintains that Moscow could not annul the previous contract without prior notification.

"The main thing is to have the Americans agree to discuss the terms of the new contract,'' he said. "But they don't want to do that and regard the former agreement as being in effect.''

A Russian newspaper said last fall that the Foreign Ministry wants $60,000 a year for the 12-bedroom mansion -- approximately what the United States was paying when it signed the contract in 1985.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Hoagland says the United States has agreed to one rent increase, from 75,500 rubles to 120,000 rubles a year -- still a paltry $21.

"As far as the American Embassy is concerned, the talks continue and we hope to find a mutually acceptable solution,'' Hoagland said last month.

The next round of talks will take place Saturday after being postponed from April, Ustinov said.

"Apparently the Americans hadn't changed their position,'' Ustinov said, adding that the talks might take "a long time, maybe years.''