Russia’s top internal security agency said a former employee of the US consulate in Vladivostok was accused of gathering information on Russian action in Ukraine and related matters on the orders of US diplomats.
MOSCOW — Russia’s top internal security agency said on Monday that a former employee of the US consulate in Vladivostok was accused of gathering information on Russia’s action in Ukraine and related matters on behalf of US diplomats.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the country’s main internal security agency, said Robert Shonov was suspected of “gathering information about the special military operation, mobilization processes in Russian regions, problems and assessment of their influence on the protest activities of the population in Russia”. ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”
The FSB, the successor to the KGB, said it had subpoenaed two US diplomats who allegedly tasked Shonov with gathering the information.
Shonov’s arrest was first reported in May, but Russian authorities did not provide any details at the time. The US State Department condemned his arrest.
Shonov was charged under a new article of Russian law that criminalizes “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state, international or foreign organization to support their activities clearly directed against the security of Russia.” Kremlin critics said the wording is so broad it could be used to punish any Russian with foreign connections. She faces a prison term of up to eight years.
The US State Department said Shonov had worked at the US Consulate in Vladivostok for more than 25 years. The consulate closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened.
The State Department said that after an April 2021 Russian government executive order required the dismissal of all local employees at U.S. diplomatic outposts in Russia, Shonov worked at a company with which the U.S. United had signed a contract to support their embassy in Moscow.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in May that Shonov’s only role at the time of his arrest was to “compile media summaries of news articles from publicly available Russian media sources” and argued that his arrest “highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws”. against its own citizens.
Russian media reported that Shonov was being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow.
Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist with the Wall Street Journal, is also detained in Lefortovo. Gershkovich has been in custody since his March 29 arrest by Russian security services on espionage charges that he, his employer and the US government have denied.
Gershkovich’s arrest has rattled journalists in Russia and sparked outrage in the West. The United States declared Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” and demanded his immediate release.