Russia expels two US embassy staff it accuses of collaborating with spy

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MOSCOW – Russia is expelling two US diplomats it accuses of working with a Russian national who is being held for collaborating with a foreign state.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it summoned American envoy Lynne Tracy and told her that the United States embassy’s First Secretary Jeffrey Sillin and Second Secretary David Bernstein must leave Russia within seven days.

“The named people conducted illegal activity, maintaining contact with Russian citizen R. Shonov, accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state,” the ministry said.

Robert Shonov, a Russian national, was employed by the US Consulate General in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok for more than 25 years until 2021, when Russia ordered the termination of the US mission’s local staff.

The US in August accused Moscow of attempting to intimidate and harass US employees after Russian state media reported that Shonov had been charged by security services with collecting information on the war in Ukraine and other issues for Washington.

Russian state news agency Tass quoted the FSB security service as saying that Shonov relayed information to US embassy staff in Moscow on how Russia’s conscription campaign was impacting political discontent ahead of the 2024 presidential election in Russia.

The FSB said it planned to question US embassy employees who were in contact with Shonov, who has been under arrest since May.

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Shonov was paid to complete tasks aimed at damaging Russia’s national security, and that any US embassy interference in its internal affairs would be suppressed. REUTERS

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