Moscow blasts reports of 'Cold War-era harassment' of US diplomats

Reports of US diplomats in Moscow being systematically mistreated are “groundless,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. It also accused US special services of provocations and attempting to recruit Russian diplomats in Washington.

Responding to an ABC “exclusive,” the ministry said that voiced “complaints” are “banal fantasies” that “do not reach the level of cheap spy detectives.”

“What is outrageous is the peremptory and contrary to the facts statement by the US State Department press secretary that "in contrast to the behavior of the Russians," the American side treats diplomats from Russia with the utmost respect,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement reads.

In a report Monday, ABC News accused Russia of Cold War-style harassment of US embassy diplomats, which included slashing, hacking and breaking into diplomatic apartments.

Reporting on the issue at length, the ABC’s Kirit Radia listed a number of cases when US officials – none of whom were named – were targeted by Russia’s “aggressive, Soviet-era counterintelligence tactics” of intimidation and harassment “that is believed to be led by Russia's Federal Security Services (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB.”

The report specifically focused on Michael McFaul who served as the US ambassador until last February and who also “was targeted by aggressive actions”.

The Office of Inspector General described McFaul’s treatment as "a level of petty and more serious harassment far exceeding that experienced by his predecessors."

McFaul himself refused to speak to ABC.

Former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul (RIA Novosti/Iliya Pitalev)

“We are not supporters of public discussions of professional sides of the diplomatic work and risks associated with it, which are especially high in the US given the scale and range of secret operations by American intelligence, closely 'watching over' Russian diplomats,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“But once Washington has started the conversation 'out loud', we have something to say,” the statement added.

‘Provocations, brazen recruitment attempts and use of force’

According to the ministry, Russian diplomats in Washington have been “purposefully” spied on and attempts have been made to entrap them in conversation.

Employees of the Russian center for science and culture in Washington, DC, have also faced targeted persecution by the US side.

“We can recall the incident that took place not so long ago when force was used not only against the staff of our embassy in the United States, but also their wives, who were subjected to detention and harsh interrogation in handcuffs,” the statement said. “The American side offered no apologies despite our requests.”

Russian diplomats reported regular recruiting attempts, when “rough provocative techniques” were used or personal data, including on health status of family members, illegally obtained.

Speaking of US diplomats working in Russia, the Ministry stressed that are they are not an “example of law and compliance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.”

According to the ministry, US envoys have been involved in about 20 cases of traffic violations. This also includes the accident when a US diplomat smashed into cars parked in the street on last New Year's Eve.

There have been no responses to “any note from the Russian Foreign Ministry with a request to take actions against the violators.”

“We advise our colleagues from the State Department to not add negative to the already dark background of our relations. Problems are not solved that way, but rather aggravated,” the ministry said.

The ABC News report comes amid tense relations between Russia and the US. Having deteriorated previously, this year the two countries have been facing the deepest rift in recent years, triggered by the political conflict in Ukraine.