Robert Shonov, former Russian employee at U.S. Consulate, charged with spying for Washington

Robert Shonov, former Russian employee at U.S. Consulate, charged with spying for Washington

Russian officials said a Russian national and former employee of the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok spent months gathering information about Moscow’s war against Ukraine on behalf of the U.S. government. On Monday, the country’s FSB security service said Robert Shonov has been charged with “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state.”

During his interrogation by the FSB, the report said, Mr. Shonov, who was first detained by Russian authorities this spring, said he was approached by U.S. Embassy employees who wanted information about a variety of national security topics, including military mobilization efforts and the next Russian presidential election.

“I had to collect negative information about these events, find protest sentiment among the population, and report those,” Mr. Shonov said, according to TASS, the official Russian news agency.

The State Department condemned Mr. Shonov’s arrest in May 2023, saying the allegations against him were “wholly without merit.” He is a Russian citizen who worked at the U.S. Consulate for more than 25 years until Moscow ordered the termination of all local staff employed at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia.

“Mr. Shonov was employed by a company contracted to provide services to [the] U.S. Embassy in Moscow in strict compliance with Russia’s law and regulations,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “Mr. Shonov’s only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources.”

The FSB, the successor agency of the Soviet Union’s KGB, said Mr. Shonov was working on behalf of at least two U.S. diplomats in the Embassy’s political department. Russian officials said they want to question the two U.S. officials about the case against Mr. Shonov.

According to media reports, Mr. Shonov is being held in Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo Prison. Current detainees there include Evan Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal reporter who is accused of espionage — charges the Biden administration and his employer strongly reject.