Rep. Torres calls for FBI investigation into Riverdale-based diplomatic compound tied to Russia

U.S Rep. Ritchie Torres calls for an FBI investigation into the Russian Diplomatic Compound in Riverdale on Tuesday.
Photo Jason Cohen

With reports that a Russian Diplomatic Compound located in Riverdale is believed to be home to foreign agents, U.S Rep. Ritchie Torres is calling on the FBI to investigate potential acts of espionage.

On Tuesday, Torres, a Bronx progressive, stood across from the 20-story building at 355 W. 255 St., and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him a “war criminal,” and said anyone that is aiding and abetting him in the U.S. must be expelled.

The lawmaker said that when Russia invaded the Ukraine on Feb. 24, everything changed in the world.

“We have been appalled and alarmed by Putin’s aggression against Ukraine,” Torres said. “Giving everything that is happening in the world, we can’t afford to have war crimes abetted in our backyard.”

Torres cited how retired FBI Special Agent Robin Dreeke recently told Fox News that members of the Russian intelligence community reside at the compound. With a building that dates back to the Cold War, it is time to thoroughly investigate everyone who is there, Torres said.

But concerns with Russia, and Russian operatives living on American soil, are nothing new.

In December 2020, Russia orchestrated the largest cyber attack in U.S. history called SolarWinds; a year later the U.S. expelled 10 Russian diplomats. In 2016, President Barrack Obama expelled 36 Russian diplomats and President Donald Trump booted 40 in 2018.

Additionally, in 2018, it was announced that 100 Russian spies had been living in the U.S., and in 2015, the Southern District of New York announced charges against a Russian spy ring in New York City.

“We’re concerned about the report of espionage on the Russian compound, which raises the question how many of those spies live on or near this compound,” Torres said. “Russia has emerged as the single greatest threat to the United States.”

The 20-story Russian Diplomatic Compound, located at 355 W. 255 St., was at the center of a Tuesday press conference where U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres called on the FBI to investigate. Photo Jason Cohen

Torres told the Bronx Times he began hearing complaints about possible espionage from Riverdale residents in February, adding that having anyone supporting Russia’s objectives to take control of the Ukrainian people is simply unacceptable.

The congressman said it would be naïve to think that there are not Russian spies living in or near the compound. He said to his knowledge this is the first time someone has requested an investigation into the Russian Compound in Riverdale.

The Bronx Times reached out to the FBI, but they declined to comment.

Torres was joined by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale. Weiss said if any of the Russian diplomats in the compound are found to be spies, they must be expelled from the U.S.

“From my perspective, anyone in this building who works for a war criminal is complicit,” the rabbi said.

Torres also discussed his recently proposed legislation “Reveal Risky Business in Russia Act,” which would require U.S. corporations to publicly disclose their business dealings in Russia. The legislation aims to hold companies accountable for refusing to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and to disincentivize countries from engaging in amoral business practices with oppressive governments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his recent address to Congress requested that U.S. companies exit Russia and cease cooperating with the Russian government. Torres’ bill would put added pressure on U.S. companies to make a decision to either support Putin’s war or stand with Ukraine and its people. While 400 U.S. companies have withdrawn from Russia, according to the Yale School of Management, many companies still refuse to do so.

The bill would also require a public company to disclose in periodic reports to the SEC, whether the company does business in Russia or with the Russian government.

“The investing public has a right to know which corporations are doing business in Russia, which has become a dangerous place to operate,” Torres said. “Corporate America must send a message of zero tolerance for the kind of aggression Russia has shown. We have to isolate Putin’s regime as a pariah state, and we have to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”

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