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Russia expels two American diplomats — RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the expulsion of two American diplomats, previously accused of recruiting a Russian national as a confidential informant.

American Ambassador Lynne Tracy was summoned Thursday to receive a “Steps“note, a form of diplomatic protest, against David Bernstein and Jeffery Sillin, announced the Russian diplomatic department.

Moscow declared the activities of embassy employees incompatible with their status. They have seven days to leave the country, the press release specifies.

At the end of August, the Russian security service FSB identified the two Americans as persons of interest in an investigation. They are suspected of having recruited Russian citizen Robert Shonov as a confidential informant.

The crime the man is accused of was added to Russia’s criminal code last year. A person involved in covert cooperation with a foreign state or international organization, whose actions are “aimed at harming Russia’s security“, carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison. Shonov was arrested in May.

Washington has denied any wrongdoing, and a few weeks ago State Department spokesman Matt Miller called the Russian allegations “totally without merit”. He described the accusations against the diplomats as an attempt to “intimidate and harass” embassy staff.

The ministry stated that “illegal activities of the US diplomatic mission, including interference in the internal affairs of the host state, are unacceptable and will be stopped with determination.”

For years, Moscow and Washington have been downgrading their respective diplomatic representations in the United States and Russia. Former US President Barack Obama’s administration began closing Russian consulates after accusing Moscow of “interfere” during the 2016 presidential election.

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