Russia says it expelled two U.S. diplomats after the U.S. made a similar move following an incident involving a U.S. diplomat and a security guard in Moscow.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement released Saturday said the Americans were expelled in June.
The statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the expelled U.S. Embassy employees was declared “persona non grata” for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status," accusing them of being CIA agents.
The United States had expelled two Russian diplomats on June 17 in response to a confrontation in Moscow between a U.S. diplomat and Russian police.
U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Friday that the two unnamed Russian officials were expelled almost two weeks after a Russian guard attacked a U.S. diplomat outside the U.S. Embassy compound in Moscow.
A video released earlier in the week by Russian state television network NTV showed a man leaving a taxi in front of the embassy and being immediately tackled by a Russian guard who came out of a sentry box. The two wrestle on the ground for a few moments before the man is able to crawl through the entrance of the building.
Kirby said the attack occurred on June 6 after the American diplomat had identified himself to the guard.
"The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee,” Kirby said.
Earlier in the week, a Russian spokeswoman claimed the U.S. official was an undercover CIA agent who had refused to identify himself and punched the guard in the face.
"Instead of the CIA employee, who was in disguise, as we understand, it could have been anyone - a terrorist, an extremist, a suicide bomber," Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Kirby denied the Russian accusation that the man was a CIA agent.
“The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue,” he said.