A former employee of a long-shuttered US consulate in Russia has been jailed in Moscow on a charge of “conspiracy.”
Russia’s FSB security service arrested 62-year-old Robert Shonov in the far eastern city of Vladivostok and transported him to the capital to face a criminal count of illegal covert collaboration with foreigners, state news media outlet TASS reported Monday.
The report cited a law enforcement source as saying Shonov has been accused of committing “a crime under Article 275.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (‘Cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state, international or foreign organization’),” punishable by up to eight years in prison.
According to TASS, Shonov was being held in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison, where Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been languishing since late March on an espionage charge.
The US Embassy in Moscow said it was aware of the reports of Shonov’s arrest but had “nothing further to share at this time.”
The Russian-language news Telegram channel “Ostorozhno, Novosti” reported that although Shonov previously worked at the American consulate in Vladivostok, he was formally registered with the US Embassy in Moscow.
The consulate in Vladivostok has been closed since December 2020.
TASS quoted a court source as saying FSB investigators had requested that Shonov remain in custody for the next three months. His nationality has not been disclosed.
Gershkovich, an American citizen who has reported on Russia for six years for outlets including the Journal, Agence France-Presse and the Moscow Times, was accused of gathering classified information about a military factory in Ekaterinburg.
He and his employer have strongly denied the spying claims, and the State Department ruled last month that Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained.
Former US Marine Paul Whelan is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for the crime of espionage, which he says he did not commit.
The State Department told the WSJ last week that a prisoner swap involving Russian nationals locked up in other countries could be the most effective way for the US to secure freedom for both Gershkovich and Whelan after WNBA star Brittney Griner was traded for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in December.