Russia on Monday accused a former US consulate employee in the Far East of illegally passing data about the Ukraine conflict to American diplomats, activities Washington earlier said were routine.

The Russian Security Service (FSB) also announced it was seeking to question two US diplomats at the embassy in Moscow over the case, in a break from diplomatic tradition.

The FSB said it had charged the Russian citizen, identified as Robert Shonov, over “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state”.

The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years.

Russian news agencies meanwhile released undated footage distributed by the FSB showing Shonov’s detention on a snow-covered street. It also published images of Shonov testifying on camera.

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The FSB said Shonov had begun handing information to the American diplomats last September about the conflict and mobilisation, an unpopular move in Russia that sparked an exodus of military-aged men.

It added that Shonov had been tasked with gauging protest sentiment in Russia’s regions ahead of presidential elections scheduled for next year.

The FSB said the two diplomats, identified as Jeffrey Silin and David Bernstein, worked in the political department in the US embassy in Moscow.

The footage circulated by Russian media identified the diplomats along with summons dated August 11 for questioning on August 23.

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Shonov worked for more than 25 years for the US consulate in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok until 2021, when Moscow imposed restrictions on local staff working for foreign missions.

The US State Department said in May that Shonov since worked as a private contractor compiling press accounts from publicly accessible Russian media, “in strict compliance with Russia’s laws and regulations”.

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