The US State Department has criticized plans by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to question two employees of the US embassy in Moscow, calling it an attempt to intimidate and harass American citizens. The spokesperson for the State Department, Matthew Miller, stated that Russia is obligated under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to treat diplomats with respect and to prevent any attack on their person, freedom, or dignity. Miller added that Washington expects Moscow to fulfill its commitments under the convention in relation to this case.
Miller strongly protested against the Russian security services’ attempts, which have been amplified by state-controlled media, to intimidate and harass US embassy employees. The FSB had announced summonses for two American diplomats, David Bernstein and Jeffery Sillin, who work at the US embassy in Moscow. The agency intends to question them as witnesses in the case of Robert Shonov, a Russian citizen facing treason charges.
Shonov, who previously worked at the now-defunct US consulate in Vladivostok, was detained in May on suspicion of acting as a confidential informant for the US. In a video released by the FSB, Shonov admitted his guilt and claimed that Bernstein and Sillin had directed his actions. He alleged that the diplomats approached him in September 2022 and wanted information about potential recruits dissatisfied with the Russian government’s policies. They were also interested in intelligence about Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine and mobilization in the country.
Miller, however, described the accusations against Shonov as “wholly without merit.” He emphasized that Shonov had been employed by a company contracted to provide services to the US embassy in strict compliance with Russian laws and regulations.
When approached by Russian media outlet RBK, the US embassy in Moscow stated that it had not yet received a summons for Bernstein and Sillin from the Russian authorities. The embassy claimed that its staff only learned about the FSB’s intention to question the diplomats through the media.
The US State Department’s criticism of Russia’s actions highlights the importance of upholding diplomatic norms and respecting the rights and freedoms of diplomats. It also raises concerns about the potential impact of such actions on bilateral relations between the two countries. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations serves as a framework for maintaining diplomatic relations and emphasizes the need for mutual respect and protection of diplomats. Both countries should strive to resolve any issues through diplomatic channels and ensure the fair treatment of all individuals involved.