Russia accuses U.S. Consulate employee of collecting Ukraine war data

August 28, 2023

Russia’s intel agency FSB on Monday accused Russian Robert Shonov of gathering Ukraine-Russia war information while working at the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok.

The FSB suspects Shonov of “gathering information about the special military operation, mobilization processes in Russian regions, problems and the assessment of their influence on protest activities of the population in the runup to the 2024 presidential election.”

Like the United States, Russia is holding a presidential election in 2024, where President Vladimir Putin is running for a fifth term.

Russia’s FSB also said it had served summonses to question two U.S. diplomats who allegedly instructed Shonov to collect the information.

When Shonov was arrested back in May, the U.S. Department of Justice swiftly condemned his detention, calling the allegations “wholly without merit.”

“Mr. Shonov’s only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources,” the DOJ said in a statement at the time.

Shonov has been charged under a new Russian law that criminalizes “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state, international or foreign organization to assist their activities clearly aimed against Russia’s security.” Critics of the law say it’s so broad, it can be used to punish any Russian with foreign connections. 

“His being targeted under the ‘confidential cooperation’ statute highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens,” said the DOJ in May.

The law carries a prison sentence of up to eight years. 

Russian news reports have said that Shonov was being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions, which is also where U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich is being “wrongfully detained,” according to the U.S. State Department, on charges of espionage.

PHOTO: U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok

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