The US has announced Monday afternoon that it is moving to expel a dozen Russians with diplomatic credentials from US soil. The State Department and US agencies have identified the twelve as "intelligence operatives" who worked out of the Russian Mission to the United Nations in New York.
A statement by the US Mission to the United Nations said "twelve intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security."
The statement didn't spell out those alleged espionage activities or name any evidence of their spying activities.
While the statement says "the action has been in development for several months" - it's hard not to see this as also likely related to a crackdown on suspicious Russian diplomatic personnel connected to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia's ambassador the UN Vassily Nebenzia responded by slamming the explanation as "not satisfactory."
"I’ve just received information that the US authorities have undertaken another hostile action against the Russian Mission to the United Nations grossly violating their commitments on the host country agreement that they undertook," Nebenzia said to the press. "They just visited the Russian Mission and gave us a note prescribing us to do what they demand."
The move comes after multiple months of tit-for-tat expulsions between the Russian and US sides, with dozens of Russian diplomats sent home from the embassy in Washington D.C. in January, which had first been announced last November. In the most recent incidents, the State Department has cited that it won't renew their visas.
Countries across the globe, including the United States, often send intelligence officers to the foreign country in which they are embedded under cover of diplomatic credentials.
With the United States for example, intel officers often work out of the embassy or consulates as "official" State Department personnel, while in reality working for US intelligence, in a practice which has become so normative as to be an 'open secret'. US adversaries like Russia or China also regularly do the same.