The main entrance to the Lefortovo prison in Moscow on April 4.Vlad Karkov / Sipa via Reuters file

Russia charges U.S. consulate worker with spying over the war in Ukraine

The arrest of Robert Shonov in May drew condemnation from the State Department.

By Yuliya Talmazan

Russia has charged a former U.S. consulate employee with collecting information for Washington on the war in Ukraine.

The country’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, said in a statement released early Monday that Robert Shonov, who was arrested in May, is facing charges of “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state.”

Shonov is a Russian citizen who was a long-time employee of the U.S. consulate in the city of Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast, before his arrest.

The FSB said Shonov was being paid to collect information about what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the mobilization effort across Russia and “problematic issues and their impact on the protest activity of the population ahead of the 2024 presidential election in Russia.” The security service alleged Shonov carried out these tasks from last September and until his arrest.

It also named two U.S. embassy staffers in Moscow who, the FSB claims, tasked Shonov directly.

“As part of the investigation, FSB is conducting investigative actions aimed at identifying all the circumstances of the illegal activities of the Russian,” the security agency’s statement said, adding that it has served summonses to question the two American diplomats mentioned.

NBC News has reached out to the U.S. embassy in Moscow for comment.

Shonov’s arrest in May drew condemnation from the State Department, which called the allegations against him “wholly without merit” and said they amounted to Russia’s “blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.”

Russia has amped up prison sentences for state treason, including espionage, and continues to criminalize any dealings of its citizens with foreign countries amid its war in Ukraine and a crackdown on dissent not seen since the Soviet era.

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