The Russian Federal Security Agency announced on Saturday that it had arrested the Ukrainian consul in Saint Petersburg. The Federal Security Service said that Alexander Susunyuk was arrested on Friday “red-handed while receiving classified information from a Russian citizen.”
The security agency, which is the heir to the former KGB, said that this information included information from the agency’s database and databases of other law enforcement agencies. She added that measures in line with international law would be applied to the diplomat “due to activity that was clearly hostile to Russia.”
The agency added in a statement that “such activity is inconsistent with its diplomatic status, and is of a clearly hostile nature towards the Russian Federation.”
In recent years, Russia has arrested a number of Ukrainian citizens on suspicion of espionage, but the arrest of a diplomat is rare.
Tensions are rising between Russia and Ukraine, as Russia mobilizes its forces along the border with Ukraine and in the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed years ago.
In recent weeks, Kiev accused Moscow of mobilizing forces on its borders and of seeking to destroy the “Ukrainian State”.
Kiev has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine since 2014, and clashes have intensified since the beginning of this year, which led to the collapse of the ceasefire, which was agreed upon last July.
There is growing concern that the long-running conflict will turn into a broader one. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested assistance from Western countries.
Zelenskyy asked Europe a few days ago for greater support for his country in the face of Russia, including allowing it to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On Friday, the Ukrainian president, along with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called on Russia to withdraw its forces from the border area with Ukraine, with the aim of “de-escalation” between the two countries.
Russia had warned NATO early this month not to send troops to help Ukraine, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would take “additional measures” if NATO took such a step.