Moscow confirms US expelled 2 Russian diplomats, initially asked to keep it secret
Russia's Foreign Ministry has confirmed reports about US authorities expelling two Russian diplomats from Washington DC following an incident outside the US Embassy in Moscow on June 6, 2016, when a US diplomat was allegedly ‘beaten’ by Russian security staff.
“I can confirm that […] the US government did demand the departure of two employees of the Russian Embassy in Washington DC without presenting any complaints to the employees themselves. Furthermore, the State Department strongly asked us not to make this fact public. As you can see, it is customary for American diplomats to keep their word,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the press, alluding to the publication on the incident in Washington Post.
The article claimed that a Russian guard “attacked and beat up a US diplomat who was trying to enter” the US Embassy in Moscow, citing “US officials who were briefed on the incident.”
“The American diplomat - or, more accurately, a CIA officer who worked under the embassy’s cover and was returning to the compound disguised after conducting an intelligence operation - attacked a police officer, who was carrying out his duty protecting the diplomatic mission,” Ryabkov explained.
“The video footage of the incident was shown on July 7 on NTV channel and speaks for itself – in the middle of the night a man wearing a knitted hat pulled low over his head, despite the fact it’s summer, jumps out of a taxi and rushes to the entrance of the embassy, without making any attempt to show his identity. When the guard rushes to intercept him in order to prevent a possible threat to the diplomatic mission, he hits the officer in the face with his elbow, which is, in fact, a criminal offense,” the official noted.
Ryabkov said the US agent who was involved in the incident had to be deported from Russia along with another CIA operative in response to similar actions targeting Russian diplomats.
“After their [the US authorities’] unfriendly step two employees of the US Embassy had to leave Moscow. They were declared ‘undesirable’ for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status. The very night hoodlum is one of them, along with another CIA operative,” Ryabkov said.
The US Embassy has refused to comment on the status of the two deported diplomats. “As our standard practice demands, I will not discuss the status of any employees serving overseas,” Embassy Spokesman William Stevens told RIA Novosti on Saturday.
US authorities have denied that it was the US diplomat who provoked the incident on June 6.
“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.
The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee [...] The Russian claim the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a daily press briefing on Friday, apparently contradicting the CCTV evidence.
“As difficult as it is to deny the obvious, the State Department continues to do so,” Ryabkov said.
“[Authorities] in Washington resort to specific actions, further exacerbating the atmosphere of bilateral relations, which the Obama administration has methodically been crushing for more than two years now, including attempts to undermine our economy and military threats. […]
“We do hope that Washington will come to realize the depravity of an aggressive anti-Russian line of action. If it decides, however, to move further along the path of escalation, [such policy] will not remain unanswered,” Ryabkov warned.