(PatriotWise.com) — Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered two US diplomats to leave the country within a week, alleging that the diplomats were involved in “illegal activity.” However, the State Department is calling the expulsions “unprovoked,” the Associated Press reported.
In a statement last Thursday, the foreign ministry accused first secretary Jeffrey Sillin and second secretary David Bernstein of the US Embassy in Moscow of keeping in touch with Robert Shonov, a former employee of the US consulate in Vladivostok who was arrested in May for allegedly collecting information about Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and related issues.
According to the statement, US Ambassador Lynne Tracy was summoned to the foreign ministry and informed that Sillin and Bernstein were being expelled. The ministry said it “emphasized” to Tracy that their “illegal activities” were “unacceptable and will be resolutely suppressed.”
In its statement, the foreign ministry said it expected Washington to come to the “right conclusions” and “refrain from confrontational steps.”
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller blasted Moscow for choosing “confrontation and escalation” instead of “constructive diplomatic engagement.”
Miller accused Russia of continuing to harass Embassy employees and said the State Department “will respond appropriately” to Moscow’s actions.
The US Embassy in Moscow confirmed that the foreign ministry informed Ambassador Tracy of its “unprovoked expulsion” of Sillin and Bernstein. The embassy rejected the reasons given to expel the diplomats and condemned Moscow’s “ongoing attempts” to harass and intimidate embassy employees.
In August, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed the May arrest of Robert Shonov, alleging that he gathered information about Russia’s war with Ukraine and its “mobilization processes in Russian regions,” as well as information on protest activities in the lead-up to the 2024 election.
The State Department condemned Shonov’s arrest at the time, saying the allegations against him were “without merit.”
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