MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Thursday extended by three months the detention of a former employee of the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok on charges of cooperating with a foreign state.
The U.S. State Department has condemned the arrest of Robert Shonov, which was reported this week. He was detained in Vladivostok on the Pacific coast and brought to Moscow.
The specifics of the charges haven’t been reported, including Shonov’s alleged actions or what country he was suspected of cooperating with.
The U.S. State Department says Shonov is a Russian national who worked at the consulate in Vladivostok for more than 25 years. The consulate closed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened.
In 2021, Russia ordered the dismissal of all local employees from U.S. diplomatic outposts in the country. From then on, Shonov worked at a company which held a U.S. contract to support the embassy in Moscow, the department said.
Shonov is being held in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo pretrial detention center. Also held in Lefortovo is Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Gershkovich has been in custody since his March 29 arrest by Russia’s security service on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government have denied.
The arrests occurred amid a sharp rise in pressure on critics within Russia since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, particularly those regarded as discrediting the armed forces.
Yevgeny Roizman, the former mayor of Yekaterinburg and one of Russia’s most visible and charismatic opposition figures, is on trial for discrediting the military, a charge that could bring a prison sentence. But the prosecutor on Thursday called for him to be fined 260,000 rubles ($3250), suggesting he could avoid prison time.
News reports said that police on Thursday detained Mikhail Lobanov, a Moscow professor who has criticized the military campaign in Ukraine.
Also Thursday, the Mediazona website said that court documents showed that a case will be considered against Boris Grebenshchikov, the renowned veteran rock musician, for discrediting the army. Grebenshchikov has lived in the West since 2018.