Russia and Ukraine to expel a diplomat each as tensions simmer

Polina Devitt and Natalia Zinets
·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces points a weapon at fighting positions on the line of separation near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk

By Polina Devitt and Natalia Zinets

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia accused a Ukrainian diplomat on Saturday of trying to obtain classified information and ordered him to leave the country by April 22, prompting a like-for-like response from Ukraine as border tensions simmer.

Russia's FSB security service said Oleksandr Sosoniuk had been detained when he tried to access information from Russian law enforcement databases during a meeting with a Russian citizen.

The foreign ministry gave Sosoniuk 72 hours to leave, and Ukraine then did likewise to a Russian diplomat in Kyiv.

Ukraine's foreign ministry said Sosoniuk had been held for several hours before being allowed to return to his consulate in St Petersburg, and called the detention a provocation.

"We fully deny the accusations levelled against the consular officer," it said in a statement.

Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have been rising amid a build-up of Russian troops along the border and clashes in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday pressed for peace talks with Moscow.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Editing by Kevin Liffey)