Russia expels two US diplomats for links to ‘spy’

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MOSCOW – Russia on Thursday said it was expelling two US embassy staff for “liaising” with Robert Shonov, a former US consulate worker accused by Moscow of spying.

Shonov, who worked for the US consulate in Vladivostok, was charged with passing information about the conflict in Ukraine to American diplomats, a claim the US has rejected.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the two US diplomats – Jeff Sillin and David Bernstein – conducted “illegal activities by liaising with a Russian citizen, (Robert) Shonov”.

“The US ambassador was told that Sillin and Bernstein must leave the territory of Russia within seven days under the status of persona non grata,” it said.

The US embassy in Moscow confirmed Russia’s announcement.

“We completely reject the basis for this unprovoked expulsion of our diplomatic personnel,” an embassy spokesman said in a statement, decrying what the mission called attempts to “intimidate and harass US embassy employees.”

“The US government will respond appropriately,” the statement added.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been deteriorating for years, and both sides have expelled diplomatic staff.

The United States strongly condemned Shonov’s arrest in May, saying Russia was using “increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens”. AFP

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