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US accuses Russia of harassing diplomats

An increasing number of US personnel in Moscow have reported incidents of intimidating, sometimes violent behavior by Russian agents. John Kerry took the matter to President Putin personally.

The State Department revealed on Monday that the US has complained to Moscow about an uptick in harassment of their diplomats stationed in the Russian capital. According to spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, Secretary of State John Kerry recently raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin.

She added that with increasing frequency, Russian security agents and police targeted not only US personnel with intimidating behavior, but other foreign diplomats as well. The upswing in harassment began in 2014 Trudeau said, which is the year that

Russian intervention in Ukraine

saw relations between Moscow an the West sink to a post-Cold War low.

While Trudeau declined to name any specific official or incident, the Washington Post reported examples like showing up uninvited to parties, bribing journalists to write negative stories about the diplomats, or following the officials' children to school.

According to the Post, some of the harassment was more violent, such as slashed tires or, in the case of one defense attaché, having his home broken into and finding his dog dead.

In retaliation for targeting their diplomats, the US stripped five of Russia's six honorary consuls of their credentials in January.

Trudeau said, however, that the Kremlin's claims that its officials had suffered threatening behavior in the US was "without foundation."

Although the two powers have recently cooperated on the Iran nuclear deal, tensions over Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its annexation of Crimea have kept the two countries at odds.

es/jm (dpa, Reuters)

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