Diplomatic row: Russia expels US diplomats
Russia expels US diplomats amid espionage accusations
Diplomatic tensions escalate
In a recent development, Russia has taken the decision to expel two American diplomats, alleging their involvement with a Russian national facing charges of collaborating with a foreign nation. This action further intensifies diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Russia's Foreign Ministry summoned US envoy Lynne Tracy and informed her of the expulsion of First Secretary Jeffrey Sillin and Second Secretary David Bernstein from the country within a week. According to Russia, these diplomats engaged in unlawful activities by maintaining contact with Russian citizen Robert Shonov, who has been charged with "confidential cooperation" with a foreign state. Shonov had previously worked at the US Consulate General in Vladivostok for over 25 years before being dismissed in 2021 as part of Russia's order to remove local staff associated with the US mission.
The Russian security service, FSB, released a video in which Shonov confessed that Sillin and Bernstein had instructed him to gather information about Russia's military activities in Ukraine, annexations of new territories, military mobilization, and the 2024 presidential election. Shonov also claimed that he was tasked with collecting "negative" information and identifying signs of public protests to include in his reports. In response, the United States accused Russia of attempting to intimidate and harass its employees. The State Department argued that Shonov's allegations lacked merit and highlighted Russia's use of repressive laws against its citizens.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its stance, asserting that Shonov had been compensated for actions that threatened Russia's national security. It also emphasized that any illegal activities by the US diplomatic mission, including interference in Russia's internal affairs, would not be tolerated, and it called on the United States to avoid further confrontational actions. This diplomatic rift comes amid the backdrop of strained US-Russia relations due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed by the United States.