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Russia's FSB confirms arrest of former employee of US Consulate in Vladivostok

by Martin Fornusek August 28, 2023 5:22 PM 2 min read
The FSB headquarters in Moscow. (Photo credit: Alex Segre/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Aug. 28 that it had detained a former employee of the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok, a Russian citizen named Robert Shonov, on espionage charges.

Shonov was allegedly gathering information on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, mobilization, and protest activity in Russia ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, carrying out the task from September 2022 until his detention, the FSB claimed.

According to the statement, the man was supposedly working for monetary reward at the behest of Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, two employees of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Although both Russian security services and media have labeled Shonov as a spy, the Kyiv Independent could not verify the claim.

Shonov faces up to eight years in prison. The FSB added that it plans to question the two aforementioned diplomats in relation to the case.

The Russian media first reported on Shonov's arrest in May, saying that the 62-year-old resident of Vladivostok had been arrested and was being held in the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow in pre-trial detention.

While the FSB did not specify the date of his arrest, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported that Shonov was detained in March, citing an undisclosed source.

On May 16, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow denounced the accusations levied against Shonov. The Vladivostok resident reportedly worked for the U.S. Consulate General for over 25 years until Russia lowered the limit for local staff working at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia in April 2021.

Since then, Shonov has been employed at a private company contracted by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. At the time of his arrest, his only role was to "compile press summaries from publicly available Russian media sources," a work that was "in strict accordance with Russian law and regulations," the U.S. Embassy said.

The consulate's ex-employee is not the first person arrested in Russia for alleged espionage for Western countries since the start of the full-scale invasion. Arguably the most high-profile figure held in Russia remains Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March. The U.S. denies the espionage allegations against the journalist.

CNN: Moscow court denies US journalist Gershkovich’s appeal, remands him in custody
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia on espionage charges, appealed his pre-trial detention terms at a hearing on April 18, according to CNN. Gershkovich asked to be placed under house arrest rather than in jail, but the Moscow City Court denied his appeal.

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