The FSB accused Shonov of working alongside the two U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, whom it identified as Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, since last September, “gathering information about the special military operation, mobilization processes in Russian regions, problems and the assessment of their influence on protest activities of the population in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.”
It was unclear if Sillin and Bernstein were still in the Russian capital or if the State Department would allow them to meet with Russian investigators. Russia is scheduled to hold presidential elections in March next year.
Shonov’s detention was initially reported in May with few details. At the time, the State Department denounced Shonov’s detention, saying he had been performing routine activities as a private contractor.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in May that the arrest highlighted “the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.”
On Monday the FSB published a video showing Shonov’s arrest and subsequent interrogation, in which Shonov appeared to confess to collaborating with a foreign state.
“I was tasked with gathering negative information, look for discontent and reflect it in my reports,” Shonov said in the video.
The consulate closed during the covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States and tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, never reopened.
Shonov’s arrest followed the detention in March of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges, which Gershkovich, his employer, the Wall Street Journal, and the White House all forcefully deny. Gershkovich has been jailed in Lefortovo prison in Moscow. Last week Gershkovich’s pretrial detention was extended until Nov. 30 — a move his legal team has since appealed.