Russia detained Ukraine’s consulate general for ‘spying’ as tensions between the two nations escalated even further.
Ukrainian diplomat Oleksandr Sosonyuk is accused of receiving classified information from law enforcement agency databases, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
The spying claims come amid high tension between the two ex-Soviet countries with fears the situation could deteriorate into war.
Diplomat Oleksandr Sosonyuk was held in what may have been a sting operation.
A statement from the FSB said he was “caught red handed” in a meeting with a Russian citizen “receiving classified information from law enforcement agencies and FSB databases”.
The FSB said: “The foreign diplomat will be handled in accordance with the norms of international law,.”
The security service said his activities were incompatible with his status as a diplomat.
He “has a clear hostile nature in relation to Russia”, the statement said.
The identity of the Russian person allegedly handing over papers was not disclosed.
“This activity is incompatible with the status of a diplomatic worker and is clearly hostile against Russian Federation”, the message reads.
Sosonyuk headed the Ukrainian consulate in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
Reports claim Russia has massed almost 100,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine in recent days, sparking fears of a full-scale war.
Ukraine has demanded NATO membership as a protection against its neighbour, threatening to return to building a nuclear arsenal if it is refused.
International standards state diplomats have immunity in the country in which they work, but can be deprived of the right to stay if they violate the law.
Ukraine has branded the diplomat’s detention “another provocation” and a hostile move by Russia.
The consul, who has diplomatic status in Russia had been released and was safely back in Ukraine’s consulate, said Kyiv.
Ukraine is now likely to withdraw Oleksandr Sosonyuk from Russia.
“This is another provocation amid Russia’s destabilising activities,” said Oleg Nikolenko, foreign ministry spokesman in Kyiv.
“Russian law enforcement detained an employee of the Ukrainian consulate general in St Petersburg for a few hours.
“He is now at the diplomatic mission. The detention’s circumstances are being looked into.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Enin said Ukraine was preparing a response.
“In line with the existing practice and based on the reciprocity principle, the Ukrainian side is preparing a response with regard to Russian diplomats,” he said.
“We will soon be making a decision on the matter of bringing him home.
“Our diplomat had nothing to do with the activities that he is being accused of by Russian law enforcement.”
Fears are growing of an all-out war seven years after Russia annexed Crimea in the east of the country using militia groups.