Russia threatens to expel US diplomats over false military statements

Russia threatens to expel US diplomats over false military statements

Russia has demanded that the US embassy in Moscow stop spreading fake news about its military operation in Ukraine and has threatened to expel US diplomats, according to a senior Russian foreign ministry source who said that Tracy had been told to strictly adhere to Russian law when making statements about Russia's armed forces in Ukraine.

The source quoted as saying that US diplomats engaged in what Moscow called subversive activities would be expelled.

There was no immediate comment from the US embassy in Moscow.

Russia has made discrediting its armed forces a crime punishable by up to five years in jail, while knowingly distributing false information about the military carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Tracy arrived in Moscow last month. On February 24 will be the first anniversary of President Vladimir Putin's decision to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in a special military operation. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Putin of launching an unprovoked colonial war of aggression and oppose his assertion that the operation is designed to protect Russia's security from NATO's eastern enlargement.

TASS said the official note accusing the US Embassy of interfering in Russia's internal affairs had been delivered on Tuesday and accused US diplomats of making inappropriate statements about the Russian leadership.

It didn't specify which statements it had in mind.

Tracy was heckled by a crowd of people chanting anti-US slogans late last month as she entered the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow to present her diplomatic credentials.

At the time, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Tracy he expected her to follow the principle of not interfering in Russia's internal affairs.

The US Embassy said at the time that Ambassador Tracy was focused on maintaining dialogue between our capitals at a time of unprecedented tension, protecting the interests of US citizens in Russia and supporting ties between the American and Russian peoples. The United States is Ukraine's biggest Western backer and has supplied it with modern weaponry - soon to include main battle tanks - and has imposed a swathe of new economic sanctions on Russia, all in concert with Western allies.