©Reuters. A view shows the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, February 13, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File photo
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday it is expelling two U.S. diplomats from the country, accusing it of working with a Russian accused of collaborating with a foreign state.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had summoned US envoy Lynne Tracy and told her that the embassy’s first secretary, Jeffrey Sillin, and second secretary, David Bernstein, must leave Russia within seven days.
“The named persons carried out illegal activities and maintained contact with Russian national R. Shonov, accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state,” the ministry said.
Robert Shonov, a Russian citizen, was employed by the US Consulate General in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok for more than 25 years, until Russia ordered the termination of the US mission’s local staff in 2021.
The United States accused Moscow in August of trying to intimidate and harass American workers after Russian state media reported that Shonov had been tasked by security services with gathering information about the war in Ukraine and other matters for Washington.
Russian state news agency TASS quoted the FSB security service as saying Shonov passed information to US embassy staff in Moscow about how Russia’s conscription campaign influenced political discontent ahead of Russia’s 2024 presidential election.
The FSB had said it planned to question US embassy employees who had contact with Shonov, who has been under arrest since May.
The State Department said Thursday that Shonov had been paid to perform tasks aimed at harming Russia’s national security and that any interference by the US embassy in domestic affairs would be suppressed.