The Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia has accused a former employee of a US consulate in Vladivostok of violating the criminal code by acting as a confidential informant for the United States. The accused individual, Robert Shonov, a Russian citizen in his early 60s, was arrested in May and is now under investigation for these allegations. On Monday, the FSB provided additional information about the case, including footage from Shonov’s interviews after his arrest.
According to Shonov’s statements, he was approached by two employees of the US embassy in Moscow, David Bernstein and Jeffery Sillin, in September 2022, and was instructed to gather information on individuals who were dissatisfied with the Russian government’s policies. He was also asked to provide intelligence about Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine. Both Bernstein and Sillin work in the political section of the US embassy, as stated by the FSB.
This action by Shonov falls under a recently added section in the Russian criminal code. The code now specifies that individuals who act as confidential informants for foreign states or international organizations with the intention of harming Russia’s security can face up to eight years of imprisonment and a fine.
The FSB is now seeking to question employees of the US embassy in relation to this case. Images released by the Russian agency include photos of two witness summons for last Wednesday. However, it is unclear whether the diplomats have cooperated with the investigation.
It is worth mentioning that the US consulate in Vladivostok ceased operations in 2020 amid a series of reciprocal restrictions imposed by both Washington and Moscow. The FSB did not disclose the period during which Shonov was employed at the consulate.
The case of Robert Shonov has raised concerns about espionage and the potential impact on diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States. The allegations of Shonov acting as a confidential informant for the US government highlight the ongoing security concerns faced by both countries.
As the investigation continues, it remains to be seen how this case will affect the already strained relationship between Russia and the United States. Both countries have a history of accusations and counter-accusations regarding espionage activities, and this incident adds fuel to an already heated situation.
Citizens and diplomats alike will closely monitor the developments in this case, as it has the potential to further escalate tensions between two major global powers.