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US envoy accused of stealing railway sign flown back to Washington to avoid facing charges

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US diplomat was caught on camera stealing a railway sign near the Russian capital this spring, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says. (Screenshot NTV)

A diplomatic spat has broken out between Russia and the United States after an American diplomat broke and stole a railway sign from a busy train junction near the capital Moscow, endangering the lives of passengers.

The American envoy has left Russia and returned to the US instead of facing potential criminal action, enraging Russia.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Russian government had issued a protest to Washington over the incident, which took place near the city of Tver outside of Moscow in spring.

A video clip, made exclusively available to RT, shows the US diplomat snapping off the indicator, which was a vital piece and its removal threatened the lives of train passengers.

The Foreign Ministry had announced that Russian authorities had evidence confirming that an employee of the US diplomatic mission in Moscow was behind the theft of a railway pointer signal.

Zakharova said the police found on CCTV cameras that an unknown 30-year-old man had abducted the arrow and put it in the trunk of his car. The vehicle carried red diplomatic plates.

“On the same day, the exact same car with the same registration was stopped by traffic police officers in the Tver region for violating traffic rules. An employee of the American embassy was driving,” she added.

Moscow says Washington decided to recall the embassy employee concerned “because it would have been necessary to dispense with diplomatic immunity,” given the formal note of protest from Moscow. 

Zakharova said the Russian law enforcement agencies issued requests to investigate the incident. But, rather than co-operate with the investigation, “they just sent him home.” 

A Russian TV news channel has named the American diplomat at the heart of the scandal as Parker Wilson.

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