The Russian Foreign Ministry handed US Ambassador Lynn Tracy a note about the “incompatibility with the status of a diplomat” of the actions of the first and second secretaries of the embassy, Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, and demanded their expulsion from the Russian Federation. This is reported on the department’s website.
The US Ambassador was told that Sillin and Bernstein must leave Russian territory within seven days with the status of persona non grata. According to the department, these American diplomats allegedly maintained contact with US informant Robert Shonov.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in particular, stated that “the interference of the US Embassy in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation will be resolutely suppressed.” The department also noted that they expect Washington to “draw the right conclusions” after the expulsion of diplomats and ask them to “refrain from confrontational steps.”
In August of this year, the FSB charged a former employee of the US Consulate General in Vladivostok, Russian citizen Robert Shonov, with “cooperating on a confidential basis with a foreign state” (Article 275.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
The intelligence service claims that from September 2022 until his arrest in May of this year, Shonov allegedly “carried out tasks for material compensation” “to collect information about the progress of a special military operation, mobilization processes in the regions of Russia, about problematic issues and assessing their impact on protest activity population on the eve of the presidential elections of the Russian Federation in 2024.”
The FSB said that they plan to interrogate Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, who, according to the intelligence service, gave tasks to Shonov.
The US State Department previously condemned Shonov’s arrest and called the accusations against him unfounded. According to the department, Robert Shonov worked for more than 25 years at the US Consulate General in Vladivostok. After the Russian government banned the U.S. from hiring Russians in April 2021, Shonov began working for a company that was contracted to provide services to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in accordance with Russian laws and regulations.
“Shonov’s only role at the time of his arrest was to compile summaries of press publications from publicly available Russian media sources,” the US State Department said in a statement.
An article on “confidential cooperation with a foreign state” appeared in the Russian Criminal Code in July 2022. Moreover, the actions falling under it do not contain signs of treason or espionage. The punishment under this article is from three to eight years in prison.