Russia’s FSB charges ex-US consulate staffer with spying

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused Robert Shonov, 62-year-old former employee of the US consulate in Vladivostok, of collecting information about the invasion of Ukraine, mobilisation efforts, and “problem points” and how these factors influence protest sentiments ahead of the 2024 Russian presidential elections for US diplomats, TASS reported on Monday, citing the FSB press service.

The service said that Shonov was “carrying out tasks” for “financial rewards” between September 2022 and up until the moment he was detained as instructed by “Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein of the political department of the US Embassy in Moscow”.

The FSB seeks to question these US diplomats.

The agency later specified that Shonov had pleaded guilty. The former consulate staffer can be seen on a video recording stating that Sillin and Bernstein appealed to him with a remuneration proposal for “collecting negative information” about the war, mobilisation, and the upcoming elections, “look for protests sentiments in the public and reflect them in his reports”.

It is also claimed that the first secretary of the US Embassy “instructed Shonov” to look for reporters, businessmen, and politicians loyal to the US who could be later used to collect information.

In March, a Vladivostok court announced that a person of interest had been detained for “confidential cooperation with a different country”. BBC News Russian suggested that it could have been Shonov.

In May, Shonov was transferred to a Moscow detention centre. A Moscow court then heard a case of keeping him in custody for three more months.

Simultaneously, a case of extending the arrest of St. Petersburg artist Daniil Krinari was filed with the court. Krinari is suspected of cooperating with Ukraine on the same charge.

Mediazona reported on 15 May that the serial numbers of Shonov’s and Krinari’s cases follow each other, they are charged with the same crime, while their arrest extension motions were filed at the same time. It indicates that the two cases could be linked.

The article that Krinari and Shonov are charged with was added to the Russian Criminal Code in July 2022.

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