Russia’s FSB security service said on Thursday it has opened a criminal case against a US citizen suspected of espionage, as ties between Moscow and Washington disintegrate further over the Kremlin’s nearly year-long Ukraine offensive.
The FSB did not name the person or provide any other details, nor did it say whether the suspect had been arrested.
“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case against a US citizen on the grounds of a crime under the 276 ‘Espionage’ Article of the Criminal Code,” the FSB said.
“The American is suspected of collecting intelligence information in the biological sphere, directed against the security of the Russian Federation,” it added, without any further details.
The US state department said it was aware of the “unconfirmed reports” that Russia has opened a criminal case against a US citizen on suspicion of espionage.
“We’re looking into this matter and we’ll continue to monitor,” state department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on Thursday.
“Generally, the Russian Federation does not abide by its obligations to provide timely notification of the detention of US citizens,” Patel told reporters.
A number of US citizens have been detained on criminal charges in Russia in recent years, with some ultimately freed in exchange for Russians detained in the United States. In December, US basketball star Brittney Griner was freed after being sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges.
She was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who spent 14 years in US jail for arms trafficking, money laundering and conspiring to kill Americans.
However, espionage cases are seen as especially fraught, with Russian security services often unwilling to release those it accuses of being spies.
Russia has so far refused to swap US Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan, who was arrested by the FSB in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.