Adds ministry statement, background
MOSCOW, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday it was expelling two U.S. diplomats it accused of working with a Russian national accused of collaborating with a foreign state.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had summoned U.S. envoy Lynne Tracy and told her that embassy first secretary Jeffrey Sillin and second secretary David Bernstein must leave Russia within seven days.
"The named people conducted illegal activity, maintaining contact with Russian citizen R. Shonov, accused of 'confidential cooperation' with a foreign state," the ministry said.
Robert Shonov, a Russian national, was employed by the U.S. Consulate General in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok for more than 25 years until Russia in 2021 ordered the termination of the U.S. mission's local staff.
The United States in August accused Moscow of attempting to intimidate and harass U.S. employees after Russian state media reported that Shonov had been charged by security services with collecting information on the war in Ukraine and other issues for Washington.
Russian state news agency TASS quoted the FSB security service as saying that Shonov relayed information to U.S. embassy staff in Moscow on how Russia's conscription campaign was impacting political discontent ahead of the 2024 presidential election in Russia.
The FSB had said it planned to question U.S. embassy employees who were in contact with Shonov, who has been under arrest since May.
The foreign ministry on Thursday said Shonov had been paid to complete tasks aimed at damaging Russia's national security and that any U.S. embassy interference in its internal affairs would be suppressed.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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