- Russia's Foreign Ministry declared two US diplomats — First Secretary Jeffrey Sillin and Second Secretary David Bernstein — 'persona non grata' on Thursday, ordering them to leave the country within a week.1
- The move comes after the US Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, was summoned to the ministry to receive a strong complaint over the actions of Sillin and Bernstein, which were allegedly incompatible with their status.2
- Both diplomats are accused of illegally liaising with Robert Shonov, a Russian national that Moscow has charged with collaborating on a confidential basis with a foreign state.3
- Sillin and Bernstein purportedly asked Shonov to gather information about Russia's war effort in Ukraine, its annexation of 'new territories,' its military mobilization, and the 2024 presidential election.4
- Arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in May, Shonov had been a local employee at the US Consulate General in Vladivostok for more than 25 years until Russia ordered the dismissal of local staff in 2021.5
- This is the latest in a series of diplomatic expulsions from the US or Russian embassy since the outbreak of the Ukraine War, with the US previously expelling Russia's Minister Counselor and 12 Russian UN diplomats after Moscow expelled US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman.6
- Pro-Russia narrative, as provided by Tass. Hopefully, the US will draw the right conclusions from these diplomatic expulsions and finally give up meddling in Russian internal affairs. These two US diplomats had unacceptably assigned Shonov to collect vital information about the special military operation and undermine Russia's national security in exchange for money. Russia is justified in expelling these problematic diplomats.
- Anti-Russia narrative, as provided by CNN. This ill-founded expulsion is yet another sign that Moscow will not refrain from harassing foreign diplomatic personnel, even if that means further confrontation and escalation. Allegations against Sillin and Bernstein are completely without merit, as is the case against Shonov, giving Washington no option other than responding appropriately to these actions.