Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Home » Russia Charges U.S. Consulate Worker With Spying Over the War in Ukraine

Russia Charges U.S. Consulate Worker With Spying Over the War in Ukraine

by Prasad Banda
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Russia has charged a former U.S. consular employee with collecting information for Washington on the war in Ukraine. 

The country’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, said in a statement released early Monday that Robert Shonov, who was arrested in May, faces charges of “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state.”

Shonov is a Russian citizen who was a longtime employee of the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast. 

The FSB said Shonov was being paid to collect information about what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the mobilization effort across Russia and “problematic issues and their impact on the protest activity of the population ahead of the 2024 presidential election in Russia.” The security service alleged Shonov carried out those tasks from September and until his arrest. 

It also named two U.S. Embassy staffers in Moscow who, the FSB claims, oversaw Shonov directly.  

“As part of the investigation, FSB is conducting investigative actions aimed at identifying all the circumstances of the illegal activities of the Russian,” the security agency’s statement said, adding that it has served summonses to question the two U.S. diplomats mentioned. 

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The State Department condemned Shonov’s arrest, calling the allegations “wholly without merit,” and said they amounted to Russia’s “blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.” 

Russia has amped up prison sentences for state treason, including espionage, and it continues to criminalize any dealings of its citizens with foreign countries amid its war in Ukraine and a crackdown on dissent not seen since the Soviet era. 

The State Department said that Shonov was employed by the embassy in Vladivostok for more than 25 years and that his “only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources.”

At the time of his arrest, the Russian state news agency Tass reported that Shonov had been charged with “conspiracy,” but it did not say what prompted the charges. It said Shonov could face up to eight years in prison. 

On Monday, Tass shared a video purportedly showing Shonov’s arrest and interrogation in which he lays out how he carried out the tasks for the U.S. NBC News could not verify the authenticity of the video, where and when it was shot or whether Shonov was giving his testimony under duress. 

Russia has detained several Americans in recent years on accusations of espionage. 

Journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was detained on spying charges in March, remains behind bars awaiting trial. His detention was extended until Nov. 30 last week. Gershkovich and his employer, The Wall Street Journal, have denied the charges.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage. He also maintains his innocence. Washington considers Gershkovich and Whelan to be wrongfully detained and has been trying to secure their releases. 

Source : NBCNews

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