Russia has detained a Ukrainian diplomat in St Petersburg for allegedly receiving classified information from the main security agency as tension between the two countries grows.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) said Oleksandr Sosonyuk, Ukraine‘s consul, was taken into custody during a meeting with a Russian in which he received ‘information of a classified nature contained in the databases of law enforcement agencies and the FSB.’
The claims come amid high tensions between the two ex-Soviet countries with fears the situation could deteriorate into war.
Oleksandr Sosonyuk, Ukraine’s consul, was taken into custody by the Federal Security Service
The security service said Sosonyuk was ‘caught red handed’ and added his activities were ‘incompatible’ with his status as a diplomat.
The FSB said in a statement: ‘The foreign diplomat will be handled in accordance with the norms of international law.
‘[He] has a clear hostile nature in relation to Russia.’
Sosonyuk headed the Ukrainian consulate in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
It comes as Russia has massed almost 100,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine in recent days, spring fears of a full-scale invasion.
Moscow denies inflaming the tense standoff on the frontier.
Russia claimed Ukraine’s consul was caught ‘red handed’ and had a ‘clear hostile nature’ to the country
Ukraine has demanded NATO membership as a protection against its neighbour, threatening to return to building a nuclear arsenal if it is refused.
Earlier this week the head of US forces in Europe, General Tod Wolters, said there is a ‘low to medium risk’ of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the next few weeks.
The HQ of Ukraine’s General Consulate in Saint-Petersburg
He was giving evidence to the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington when he was asked about the risk of invasion in that timeframe.
The general insisted the chances were ‘low to medium,’ adding that it would depend on a number of factors but, based on the current trajectory and disposition of Russian forces, that likelihood would start to wane.
Kiev earlier accused Moscow of ‘openly’ threatening Ukraine with ‘destruction’ by stationing 80,000 men along its eastern border – with thousands more arriving by the day – as it called on western allies to intervene.
Putin is continuing to build up his forced on the border with Ukraine, as the government warns troops numbers could swell to 110,000 with 7,000 tanks and other vehicles in support
Dmytro Kuleba, the country’s foreign minister, warned of ‘very painful consequences’ if Putin invades as he said ‘words are not enough’ and allies would need to provide practical support.
He spoke following a meeting with the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – NATO allies in the region – saying ‘the four of us condemn the exacerbation of the situation by Russia.’
‘The world is on the side of Ukraine and international law, and this is one of the elements of restraining Russia from reckless actions,’ he added.