St. Petersburg: Russia’s FSB security service said on Saturday that it had detained a Ukrainian diplomat, accusing him of receiving sensitive information from Russian nationals.
In recent years, Russia has detained many Ukrainian nationals on suspicion of espionage, but the detention of diplomats has been rare, which is seen as a sign of a sharp rise in tension.
“A Ukrainian diplomat, a consul of Ukraine’s Consulate General in Saint Petersburg, Alexander Sosonyuk, has been detained by Russia’s FSB,” the security service said in a statement, using the Russian language spelling of his name.
He had been detained on Friday, the security service said.
Kiev confirmed the diplomat had spent several hours in detention and was now back in the Ukrainian diplomatic mission.
Russia’s domestic intelligence agency said Sosonyuk had been caught “red-handed” during a meeting with a Russian national as he sought to receive “classified” information.
“Such activity is not compatible with his diplomatic status and is of clearly hostile nature towards the Russian Federation,” the FSB said.
“In conformity with international law, measures will be taken against the foreign diplomat.”
In Kiev, the spokesperson of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oleg Nikolenko blamed the incident on the tension between the two countries.
“This is yet another provocation amid Russia’s destabilising activities,” he told AFP in a statement.
He said Kiev was looking into the incident and would respond “in the near future.”
In recent weeks, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated, with Kiev accusing Moscow of gathering troops on its borders and seeking to destroy the “foundation of Ukraine”.
Since 2014, Kiev has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, and the conflict has intensified since the beginning of the year, shattering the ceasefire agreement reached in July last year.
People have always worried that the protracted conflict may return, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has turned to the West for help.