WASHINGTON: The United States has expelled two Russian officials over an attack on a US diplomat in Moscow last month by a policeman, the State Department said.
The news comes after complaints from Washington about what it deemed a mounting campaign of harassment and intimidation of American diplomats and their families in the Russian capital.
“On June 17, we expelled two Russian officials from the United States to respond to this attack,” department spokesman John Kirby said.
He said that on June 6, a Russian policeman attacked an accredited US diplomat entering the US embassy compound, after the US official identified himself.
“The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee. The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue,” Kirby told reporters.
The Washington Post first reported the incident last month, saying the Russian Federal Security Service guard broke the diplomat’s shoulder in the struggle.
This week, Russian state-controlled television broadcast what appeared to be footage of the attack, saying it showed a Russian police guard stationed outside the embassy tackling a man it said was an undercover CIA officer attempting to enter the building without identifying himself.
In the short, grainy clip — which appears to contradict the Russian report — a man exiting a taxi is almost immediately attacked by a policeman who bursts from a sentry box and wrestles him to the ground. With the officer pinning him down, the man manages to push himself through a door into the embassy.
Kirby on Friday said Russian security services had “intensified their harassment against US personnel in an effort to disrupt our diplomatic and consular operations.”
Washington had privately “urged” Moscow to stop such harassment, he added.
He refused to comment further on the condition of the diplomat who was attacked.
Last month, The Washington Post described a series of actions by Russian security and intelligence services, including following diplomats and their family members, appearing at social functions uninvited and paying for negative media stories.
Some diplomats said intruders had broken into their homes at night to rearrange furniture, turn on lights and even defecate on a living room carpet, the newspaper reported, citing officials as saying Russian intelligence officers once broke into the US defense attache’s Moscow house and killed his dog.
Moscow in turn accuses the United States of harassing its own diplomats and says it takes reciprocal measures only in response — claims that Washington says have no basis in fact. AFP