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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Diplomats Head Back to Baghdad Embassy

Russia will send its diplomats back to Iraq even though the United States says it will not recognize the status and immunity of foreign diplomats accredited by the prewar regime, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

"Russia will in the near future send to Baghdad its embassy staff who worked there and left because of the military activity. The decision to resume full diplomatic service was taken not just to ensure our presence in the country but also to provide assistance to Russian firms returning to the Iraqi market," Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement.

Yakovenko stressed that Russia would exercise its right under UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which last month ended UN sanctions on Iraq, "to play an equal part with other countries in the restoration of Iraq."

Last week, the U.S. State Department said foreign diplomats in Iraq would no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity or any of the privileges they were accorded under their accreditation to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Russia "expects the occupying powers in Iraq to ensure, in line with international legal norms, the status and security of foreign diplomatic missions working in Baghdad," Yakovenko said.

The State Department did not clarify what the exact status of foreign diplomatic missions in Iraq -- which are considered part of the sovereign territory of the country that owns or leases the property -- would be.

Russia on Friday voiced concern over the State Department statement and said it would raise the issue with Washington.

Russia evacuated most of its staff from the embassy days before U.S.-led forces launched strikes against Iraq on March 20.

The embassy staff will be headed by its charge d'affaires, Alexander Kinshchak, rather than by Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko, a Foreign Ministry source told Interfax.

Titorenko was reportedly wounded on April 6, shortly before the end of the war on Iraq, as his convoy fleeing Baghdad apparently got caught in a crossfire between U.S. and Iraqi forces.

He later accused U.S. forces of deliberately shooting at his convoy.

The Foreign Ministry source said a group of Russian diplomats were already on their way back to Baghdad.

For a while there will be fewer embassy personnel than usual, "but there will be enough for the embassy to function at full capacity," the source said.