WASHINGTON -- The United States has expelled two Russian officials following a violent altercation last month between an American diplomat and a Russian guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
The July 8 statement by U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the Russians were thrown out on June 17 in connection with the incident that occurred earlier in the month in the Russian capital, but gave no further details.
It wasn’t immediately clear who the Russians were or even if they were accredited diplomats. The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The altercation in Moscow occurred June 6, when a man identified as an accredited U.S. diplomat was tackled and injured by a Russian security service guard outside an embassy entrance.
U.S. officials said the American had just shown his embassy badge to the guard, one of several that help monitor the perimeter of the massive embassy complex and who work for the Federal Security Service, the country's main security agency.
The guard then tackled the diplomat, leaving him with a broken shoulder. The diplomat was able to walk into the embassy compound under his own power and he later left the country for medical treatment, according to one U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Russia later accused the man of being a CIA agent, and on July 7, state-controlled channel NTV released a video purportedly showing the encounter. The video showed a uniformed man spring from a guard station and tackle another man after the latter exits a taxi and heads toward the embassy door.
They struggle on the floor until the American manages to force himself along the ground through the door of the embassy, whose premises are "inviolable" under a United Nations convention.
NTV also identified the American, published his photograph and said he had been made persona non grata in Russia.
The incident came amid an increasing number of tense encounters between U.S. diplomats and Russian security officials in Moscow and elsewhere.
Moscow traffic police have stopped U.S. embassy personnel about five dozen times over the six weeks, according to the U.S. official -- an unusual number in a city where diplomats are usually afforded leeway for things like minor traffic violations.
And the spokesman for the U.S. diplomatic post last week reported returning home to find cigarettes in his apartment; another reportedly returned home to find the water taps turned on.
Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the incident with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call on June 7, the day after the altercation, Kirby told reporters July 7.
In Washington, American officials have given few details publicly about any of the incidents, but stressed on several occasions that they wanted to resolve the harassment behind closed doors and without publicity.