Russia has announced that it has expelled a Ukrainian consul in St. Petersburg, Oleksandr Sosoniuk, after detaining the diplomat on suspicion of trying to obtain classified information.
Sosoniuk, who was detained on April 17 before being released and returned to the consulate, must leave Russian territory by April 22, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in statement.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Sosoniuk of attempting to obtain information from Russian law enforcement databases during a meeting with an unidentified Russian citizen.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which protested its diplomat's detention as "illegal," said it had expelled a senior Russian diplomat in response, without identifying the individual.
"We totally exclude the charges pressed against the consular officer. Those actions of the Russian authorities grossly violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 and again prove the policy of further aggravation with Ukraine chosen by Russia," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The developments come at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries, with Moscow amassing military forces near their mutual border and in the Russian-annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Relations between Kyiv and Moscow have been strained since Russia annexed the Crimea region in 2014 and began providing military, economic, and political support to separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
More than 25 Ukrainian soldiers have been reported killed since the start of the year, compared with 50 in all of 2020, when fighting in the conflict subsided as a new cease-fire deal came into force in July.