WASHINGTON — The State Department said Monday that “unacceptable” treatment of American diplomats in Russia is on the rise, without specifically commenting on a report that date-rape drugs were slipped to two U.S. envoys.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that two U.S. officials, a man and a woman, on diplomatic passports attending a UN anticorruption conference in St. Petersburg in November 2015 were drugged at a hotel bar, causing one to be hospitalized.
The news outlet noted that it “was the first official conference in Russia that U.S. government representatives were allowed to travel to since the United States, the European Union, and their allies imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.”
The State Department “quietly” raised the incident with Russia and tried to investigate staff working at the hotel at the time of the crime, but officials were uncooperative.
The druggings occurred separately, and there was no sign of attempted robbery — as usually happens when foreigners get drugged in Russia.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau was asked about the report at the daily briefing, and said she was “aware” of it.
“What I would say is what we’ve said before on incidents like this. I’m not going to speak to the specific, of the various incidents that have occurred. What I can say is that we are troubled, we remain troubled by the way our diplomatic and consular staff have been treated over the past two years,” Trudeau said.
“We have raised our concerns at the highest levels,” she added. “In particular, the harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police has increased significantly. As we’ve said before, we find this unacceptable.”
Asked to confirm or deny that the U.S. officials were drugged, Trudeau replied, “I will not speak to this particular incident.”
In July, the State Department kicked out two Russian diplomats in response to the attack on a U.S. diplomat in Moscow outside the U.S. Embassy by a member of the FSB.
The video released by state-run TV channel NTV showed the FSB guy popping out of a booth and tackling the American as soon as he alights from a cab and starts the short distance toward a door. While struggling with the Russian, the American managed to inch toward the door and crawl into the safe harbor of U.S. turf.
Russia framed the attack as an American CIA agent trying to get into the embassy and being commendably stopped by a Russian FSB guard.