The United States expelled two Russian officials on June 17 in response to an attack by a Russian policeman on an American diplomat earlier in the month, the State Department said Friday.
'On June 17, we expelled two Russian officials from the United States in response to this attack," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. He would not provide any further detail.
Kirby said a Russian guard attacked an American diplomat outside of the U.S. Embassy compound in Moscow on June 6. He described the attack as 'unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee."
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the diplomat was a CIA agent who hit the guard in the face.
'Instead of the CIA employee, who was in disguise, as we understand, it could have been anyone –a terrorist, an extremist, a suicide bomber," said Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
Kirby responded to Moscow’s accusation by telling reporters, 'The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue."
The State Department has said that Russia has harassed U.S. diplomats in the past, a claim the Kremlin denies.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been especially strained since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.