The United States has expelled two Russian officials in retaliation over an “unprovoked” attack on its diplomat by a Russian policeman outside the US embassy in Moscow last month.
“On June 17, we expelled two Russian officials from the United States to respond to this attack,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
John Kirby said that on June 6, a Russian police-guard attacked an accredited US diplomat entering the US embassy compound, after the official identified himself.
“The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee,” he said.
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said: “Attacks on American diplomats cannot be tolerated, period. Expelling Russian officials is an appropriate first step.”
“But the administration must bolster efforts on a number of fronts – including international broadcasting – to confront Vladimir Putin’s continued aggression,” Royce added.
The details of the incident were for the first time given by Kirby on Friday.
“I’ve been clear from the podium that we would prefer to deal with this matter in private government-to-government channels. However, because the Russian government continues to make allegations about this incident, I am now compelled to set the record straight,” he said.
Kirby said the Russian claim the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual was untrue.
“In addition to the attack on the 6th of June, Russian security services have intensified their harassment against US personnel in an effort to disrupt our diplomatic and consular operations,” he said.
“We’ve privately urged the Russian government to stop the harassment of American personnel in Russia, and as I said before, the safety and well-being of our diplomatic and consular personnel abroad and their accompanying family members are things we take very, very seriously,” he said.
The incident, Kirby said comes on the heels of two years of increasing diplomatic harassment by Russian authorities that is also unprovoked and unnecessary.
“A week or so ago, Russian claims that they’re getting harassed here are simply without foundation. So you want to have a conversation about in-kind treatment, it’s time for Russia to treat our diplomats in the same manner in which they’re treated here when they come to the US,” he said.
Kirby said the US relationship with Russia is complicated.
“We certainly don’t see eye to eye on everything. There are areas where we have in the past and I think we’ll continue to seek cooperation with them, such as on Syria and the political process there,” he said.
“There are obviously still areas where there’s tension; Ukraine and Minsk implementation is one of them, and certainly this. There’s no need for this when there’s so many more important things for us to be working on with Russia and so much real, meaningful geopolitical progress that could be had.
There’s no place for this kind of treatment and there’s no reason for it,” Kirby said.