US accuses Russia of intimidating diplomats

Washington: Washington has delivered high-level complaints to Moscow about accusations of increasing intimidation of American diplomats in Russia, the State Department said. "We see an increase and we take it seriously," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters at a press briefing on Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry last discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 24, CNN reported citing Trudeau as saying. The spokeswoman said that harassment of diplomats by Russian security agents and traffic police had been an issue over the past two years but did not detail any incidents nor why Kerry brought up the matter with Putin. Other Western embassies had reported the same behaviour toward their diplomats stationed in Moscow, Trudeau added. Moscow, however, has charged that Washington has also engaged in problematic behaviour. Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow has "felt a significant increase in pressure on the Russian Embassy and consulates general of our country in the US." According to Zakharova, staff members of Russia's consulate missions abroad "regularly become the objects of provocations by the American secret services, face obstacles in making official contacts and other restrictions," including travel. Trudeau dismissed Russia's claims of US harassment of its diplomats as "without foundation" and said American diplomats are faced with same restrictions as Russian diplomats under the terms of a reciprocal agreement. The Putin-Kerry conversation came after Washington in January stripped five of six Russian honorary consuls of credentials to retaliate for harassment of its diplomats in Moscow. In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of provoking Russian diplomats in the US and elsewhere.