Russia expels two U.S. embassy staffers for “illegal activity”

September 14, 2023

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it was expelling two staffers from the U.S. embassy in Moscow on allegations of illegally collaborating with a foreign state.

The Ministry said in a statement that it had summoned U.S. envoy Lynne Tracy to inform her that the embassy’s First and Second Secretaries, Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, must leave Russia within seven days.

“The named people conducted illegal activity, maintaining contact with Russian citizen R. Shonov, accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state,” according to the Ministry’s statement.

The expulsions come about two weeks after Russia’s intel agency FSB accused Russian Robert Shonov of gathering Ukraine-Russia war information while working at the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok.

In August FSB published video of a purported confession by Shonov, during which he said Sillin and Bernstein asked him to gather “negative” information about the war in Ukraine, Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, and how Russia’s conscription campaign was impacting political discontent ahead of the 2024 presidential election in Russia.

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

The U.S. embassy in Moscow confirmed the expulsions of Sillin and Bernstein, though there was no immediate comment from the U.S. State Department.

PHOTO: U.S. Embassy in Moscow

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