U.S. Diplomats Expelled from Russia Amid Espionage Allegations

Russia has delivered a stern message to the United States, with the expulsion of two American diplomats accused of espionage activities.

by Faruk Imamovic
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U.S. Diplomats Expelled from Russia Amid Espionage Allegations
© Getty Images News/Andreas Rentz

Russia has delivered a stern message to the United States, with the expulsion of two American diplomats accused of espionage activities. These allegations center around interactions with a Russian citizen, who Moscow claims was collaborating with a foreign state.

Diplomats Under Scrutiny

Reuters brought to light the unfolding diplomatic drama. Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, declared that they had summoned the US envoy, Lynne Tracy. The directive was clear: the embassy's first secretary, Jeffrey Sillin, and second secretary, David Bernstein, were to depart Russian soil within a week.

In a quick response, the U.S. Embassy verified the diplomats' pending expulsion. However, the State Department in Washington has remained conspicuously silent on the matter. According to the Russian ministry, "The named people conducted illegal activity, maintaining contact with Russian citizen R Shonov, accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state." The label of “persona non grata” was ascribed to both Sillin and Bernstein, a diplomatic term essentially marking them as unwelcome.

The Robert Shonov Connection Robert Shonov's association with the expelled diplomats adds a layer of complexity to the situation. Employed at the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok, Shonov had been a dedicated member for over 25 years.

However, a significant shift occurred in 2021 when Russia instructed the U.S. mission to lay off its local staff. Things took a turn for the dramatic when Russia's FSB security service aired a video in August, allegedly featuring a confession from Shonov.

In this purported revelation, Shonov claimed that Silin and Bernstein had tasked him with procuring information regarding several Russian operations. These included insights into Russia's war endeavors in Ukraine, its annexation strategies, military mobilization, and details about the anticipated 2024 presidential election.

U.S. Responds to Allegations

The United States has countered Moscow's assertions, perceiving them as blatant attempts to harass and threaten American officials. This perspective was solidified when Russian media broadcasted the allegations against Shonov, combined with the FSB's intentions to interrogate embassy workers who had liaised with him.

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