Russia Expels Two American Diplomats over Espionage Allegations
Story Code : 1081723
US Ambassador Lynne Tracy was summoned on Thursday to receive a 'demarche' note, a diplomatic protest, regarding David Bernstein and Jeffery Sillin, as stated by the Russian diplomatic department.
According to RT, Moscow has declared the activities of these embassy employees incompatible with their diplomatic status and has given them seven days to leave the country. In late August, the Russian security service FSB identified the two Americans as persons of interest in an investigation. They are suspected of recruiting Russian citizen Robert Shonov as a confidential informant.
The felony that Shonov has been accused of was added to the Russian criminal code just last year. It stipulates that a person involved in secret cooperation with a foreign state or international organization, with actions "directed at harming the security of Russia," may face up to eight years in prison. Shonov was arrested in May.
Washington has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with State Department spokesman Matt Miller stating weeks ago that the Russian allegations were "wholly without merit." He characterized the accusations against the diplomats as an attempt to "intimidate and harass" embassy staff.
"Unlawful activity by the US diplomatic mission, including interference in the domestic affairs of the host state, is unacceptable and will be stopped with determination," the Russian ministry stated.
For years, Moscow and Washington have been reducing their respective diplomatic representation in each other's countries. The Obama administration initiated the closure of Russian consulates, accusing Moscow of "interfering" in the 2016 presidential election. Russian reluctance to expel US diplomats in a tit-for-tat action during the last weeks of the Obama administration was a part of the 'Russiagate' narrative that persisted during Donald Trump's presidency. Moscow eventually carried out retaliation in July 2017.