Russia on Friday called on the US embassy in Moscow to waive diplomatic immunity for three of its employees, saying they were suspected of theft.
The announcement comes amid escalating tensions between Moscow and the West and a few days after NATO stripped eight members of the Russian mission for their alliance of recognition.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it sent a note to the embassy with a request to “waive the diplomatic immunity of three US mission staff to prosecute criminal charges”.
It said the three employees were “theft of personal belongings of a Russian citizen”.
The ministry said in its statement that if their request is denied, the diplomats should leave Russia “immediately”.
Earlier on Friday, the press service of Moscow’s Interior Ministry told TASS news agency that it had received a complaint about a bag being stolen.
Ministry spokesman Vladimir Vasenin said US Marine Corps soldiers aged 21 to 26 were captured in CCTV footage.
He said the incident resulted in a loss of 15,000 rubles ($200).
A criminal case has been initiated over the theft, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
A source told Interfax news agency that the incident happened on September 18 at a Moscow bar and the US citizens were “drunk”.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on a range of issues, including claims of meddling in US elections and Russia’s human rights record.
This year Russia formally declared the United States an “unfriendly” state, barring its embassy from admitting Russian citizens.
In June, US President Joe Biden and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met at a high-profile summit in which they agreed it was important to talk despite the differences that divide them.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)