WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Friday ordered two Russian diplomats expelled from the United States in retaliation for the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats from Moscow last month.
The State Department said it had taken the action in response to Russia declaring the two American diplomats persona non grata because of contacts with a Russian national who had once worked for the now-closed U.S. consulate in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok and was arrested this year.
“The department will not tolerate the Russian government’s pattern of harassment of our diplomats,” spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. “Unacceptable actions against our embassy personnel in Moscow will have consequences.”
The expulsions come at a time of animosity between Washington and Moscow over the war in Ukraine and as diplomatic relations have plummeted to their worst level since the Cold War.
On Sept. 14, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the first secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Russia, Jeffrey Sillin, and the second secretary, David Bernstein, of “illegal activity” and ordered them to leave the country within seven days.
The ministry said they had “kept in touch” with the former consulate employee, Robert Shonov, who was accused of collecting information for U.S. diplomats about Russia’s military action in Ukraine and related issues.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, reported the arrest of Shonov in August. The FSB said he had gathered “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.”
The U.S. categorically rejected the claims.