- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2019

Russian officials cried foul Saturday after an employee of the American embassy in Moscow supposedly brought a bomb into the city’s largest airport.

State media reported that police at Sheremetyevo Airport stopped an unnamed U.S. Embassy employee carrying in his luggage what the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as “an object similar to a mortar bomb.”

“Bomb disposal experts who arrived at the scene confirmed that the object is indeed a mortar shell fitted with a detonator but devoid of explosive material, even though traces of explosives were present inside its casing,” Russian Foreign Ministry officials said in a statement published by government-owned outlets.

“The United States seems to be trying to test the reliability of ensuring Russia’s security not only from the outside, regularly arranging provocative raids of warships and airplanes near our borders, but also from the inside, and with the involvement of the staff of [its] embassy,” said the ministry’s statement.

The object was confiscated, and the traveler was allowed to board a plane bound for New York, the outlets reported.

The traveler told authorities he had acquired the mortar shell for his “personal collection,” the reports said.

Anatoly Vybornyy, a Russian legislator who serves on the State Duma’s committee on security and anti-corruption, called the traveler’s reported explanation into question.

“There were, most likely, other intentions to create some kind of provocation, to give occasion to show Russia in extremely unfavorable light,” he said in an interview, the RIA Novosti agency reported.

“We are aware of an incident today at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow involving an individual from the U.S. Embassy‎,” a State Department official told The Washington Times later Saturday. The person was allowed to depart Russia after authorities removed the item from his luggage, said the official, adding: “There was ‎no danger presented to any traveler.”

Moscow regularly accuses Russia’s adversaries of instigating “provocations,” including as recently as when the U.S. offered humanitarian aid to Venezuela late last month.

“Let us not be deceived, or deceive others. A provocation, including with casualties, is being prepared under the guise of a humanitarian convoy,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at the time.

A senior U.S. official subsequently dismissed her claim as “senseless accusation” and “propaganda,” Reuters previously reported.

More than 40 million passengers traveled through Sheremetyevo in 2017.

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