Tuesday 17 October 2017

US diplomats 'slipped date rape drug by Russian security services at hotel bar' while attending corruption conference

The man and women were attending an anti-corruption conference in St Petersburg at the time of the alleged incident Harry Engels/Getty Images
The man and women were attending an anti-corruption conference in St Petersburg at the time of the alleged incident Harry Engels/Getty Images

Lizzie Dearden

Two American diplomats have reportedly been given “date rape" drugs while attending a conference in St Petersburg in what the US State Department called an “escalating pattern of harassment by Russia”.

A report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) claimed a man and woman were targeted while attending a United Nations conference on anti-corruption in November 2015, when they were slipped a substance at their hotel bar.

Officials suggested an investigation was hampered by the Russian intelligence services after the power at a clinic where an unconscious victims was treated was cut, leaving doctors unable to take blood and tissue samples, and staff lists for their hotel disappeared.

But Russian authorities said there was no concrete evidence of the alleged crime and suggested the diplomats had merely been “boozing at a hotel bar”.

Sergey Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, accused the American government of making the claims against Russia because of its “principled position” on the Syrian civil war. 

“The US State Department has once again become a broken record regarding the purported ‘harassment’ of US diplomats in our country,” he said.

“As we have repeatedly pointed out, such assertions have nothing to do with reality and, in essence, are an attempt to divert attention from Washington’s own unseemly actions, including in relation to Russian citizens.”

Mr Ryabkov said the government was “outraged” at the drugging allegations and said investigations found no record of treatment at clinics in St Petersburg.

“If, alternatively, they had just been boozing at a hotel bar, they have only themselves to blame,” he added.

Alluding to complaints by the US after another diplomat was tackled to the ground by an FSB guard outside the American embassy in Moscow, Mr Ryabkov accused Washington of using diplomatic services as cover for espionage and accused Barack Obama of perpetuating “rabid anti-Russian propaganda”.

RFERL, which is funded by the US government, said State Department officials had reported rising harassment of representatives and American journalists since a downturn in relations following the Ukraine crisis and Syrian war.

Alleged methods include traffic stops, vandalism and the leaving of human excrement on apartment floors, with Washington releasing an advisory telling American visitors to Russia not to leave drinks unattended in bars and clubs.

The report emerged after the diplomatic chill between the two countries deepened as the US suspended talks with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war, where the nations are backing opposite sides.

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