Russia expels 2 US diplomats in tit-for-tat move

MOSCOW • A diplomatic row between Russia and the United States deepened yesterday, as Moscow said it had expelled two US Embassy staff members last month after a similar "unfriendly" move by Washington.

One of the expelled diplomats was involved in an incident with a Russian policeman near the US Embassy entrance in Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Another diplomat was "also a CIA operative", Mr Ryabkov said.

Russia's statement came after reports on Friday that the US expelled two Russian officials on June 17 in response to what it described as a Russian policeman's attack on an American diplomat.

"On June 17, we expelled two Russian officials from the United States in response to this attack," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, declining to provide further details about the expulsions.

In his first detailed comments about the June 6 incident, Mr Kirby contradicted the account provided by Russia's Foreign Ministry, which said the policeman was trying to protect the embassy by checking the man's documents.

"On the 6th of June, an accredited US diplomat who identified himself in accordance with embassy protocols entering the American embassy compound was attacked by a Russian policeman," Mr Kirby told reporters.

"The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee. The Russian claim (that) the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue," he added.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman has said the police officer had wanted to check the man's documents to establish he was not a threat to embassy security, but was elbowed in the face when he tried to challenge him.

She said the embassy employee was a CIA agent operating under diplomatic cover.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Russia expels 2 US diplomats in tit-for-tat move'. Print Edition | Subscribe