On May 15, in yet another act of petty vindictiveness aimed at the United States, Russian authorities arrested 62-year-old Robert Shonov, one of their own citizens and a former employee of the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok. He was charged with cooperating “on a confidential basis with a foreign state, [or] international organization.” He was transferred to the Lefortovo prison, where he is being held in “preventive custody".
“These allegations against Mr. Shonov are wholly without merit,” said Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State.
“Mr. Shonov is a Russian national who was employed by the consulate general for more than 25 years, and after Russia forced the termination of our locally employed staff, he was employed by a company that was contracted to provide services to the embassy in Moscow. That was done in strict compliance with Russian laws,” he said.
For 25 years, Robert Shonov worked for the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok. However, on April 23, 2021, the Russian government notified the United States that it intended to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity.
“The Russian staff, who … we were forced to let go received a generous package that included several months of severance pay, allowances, extended medical insurance, and a prorated annual bonus,” he said. “At the time of his arrest Mr. Shonov was simply assisting the public affairs and press division.”
“The United States strongly condemns the reported arrest of Robert Shonov, a former employee of U.S. Mission Russia,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller in a written statement.
“Like any diplomatic mission in the world – including Russia’s Mission to the United States – the U.S. Embassy contracts for local services to operate its diplomatic mission. 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. His being targeted under the “confidential cooperation” statute highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.”