donetsk flag
A Russian flag surrounded by barbed wire flutters at a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk Reuters

The Russian government expelled two US diplomats for allegedly having links with a spy. The authorities issued a statement on Thursday confirming the development.

The two US diplomats, the embassy's First Secretary Jeffrey Sillin and Second Secretary David Bernstein, have been asked to leave the country within seven days for "liaising" with a Russian national, Robert Shonov.

Shonov is a former consulate worker who has been accused by the Russian government of spying.

"The named people conducted illegal activity, maintaining contact with Russian citizen R Shonov, accused of 'confidential cooperation' with a foreign state", read the statement by the ministry.

"It was also emphasised (to Tracy) that illegal activities of the US diplomatic mission, including interference in the internal affairs of the host country, are unacceptable and will be resolutely suppressed", it said.

"The Russian side expects Washington to draw the right conclusions and refrain from confrontational steps."

Shonov used to work at the US Consulate General in Vladivostok before Russia ordered the dismissal of the mission's local staff in 2021.

The country's FSB security service also shared an alleged confession video of Shonov, wherein he claims that Sillin and Bernstein asked him to gather information about Russia's war in Ukraine and annexation of "new territories".

With the latest development, the tension between the two countries has reached its peak, with the United States claiming that it will respond appropriately to their actions".

"This unprovoked expulsion of our diplomatic personnel is wholly without merit, as is the case against a former Russian contractor of our embassy who was arrested for the supposedly nefarious task of performing such activities as providing our embassy with media clips", news agency AFP quoted State Department spokesman Matthew Miller as saying.

"We regret that Russia has taken this path, and you can certainly expect that we will respond appropriately to their actions. It continues to harass employees of our embassy, just as it continues to intimidate its own citizens."

The latest development comes days after the United States threatened North Korea and Russia with new sanctions if Kim sells weapons to President Vladimir Putin for his war in Ukraine.

"I will remind both countries that any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions", Miller told reporters earlier this week.

The statement came a day before the North Korean leader paid a visit to Russia. Kim arrived in Russia on a large, battle-ready train to meet Putin on Tuesday.