Former US Consulate Employee Charged with Espionage in Russia

A former employee of the US consulate in the far eastern city of Vladivostok has been charged with illicit covert collaboration with foreigners by Russia’s FSB security service.

The state news agency Tass reported on Monday that Robert Shonov had been detained in Vladivostok and that “after interrogation, he was charged with committing a crime under Article 275.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (‘Cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state, international or foreign organization’)”, which is punishable by up to eight years in prison.

It stated that he was being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which is typically reserved for the most severe offenders, including spies.

The US embassy in Moscow acknowledged the allegations but said it had “nothing further to add at this time.”

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Washington’s decision to respond by imposing economic sanctions and supplying advanced armaments to Kyiv in conjunction with western partners, relations between the United States and Russia have reached an all-time low.

Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was arrested by the FSB in late March on charges of espionage, a move that the White House deemed absurd and unlawful.

Since December 2020, the US consulate in Vladivostok has been closed.

According to a court source cited by Tass, FSB investigators requested that Shonov be detained for three months.