Russia has charged one of its citizens, a former employee of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Vladivostok for 25 years, with collaborating with the United States, an arrest the U.S. State Department condemned on Tuesday and said was “wholly without merit.”
Russian state news agencies identified the employee as Robert Shonov, 62. The U.S. said he had been employed by the U.S. Consulate General in the far eastern provincial city of Vladivostok until Moscow ordered the facility shut two years ago, forcing termination of all local staff employed by the U.S.
The U.S. said that it, like Russia in the U.S., hires local workers to staff its embassy operations throughout the world. The State Department said that at the time of his arrest, Shonov “was employed by a company contracted to provide services to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in strict compliance with Russia’s laws and regulations.”
“Shonov’s only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources,” the State Department said. “His being targeted under the ‘confidential cooperation’ statute highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.”
The Russian state news agencies gave no details of the case against Shonov. He was arrested in March and is now being held at Moscow’s Leftortovo prison. If convicted, he faces eight years in prison.