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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Embassy Downplays Envoy Smuggling Scandal

In an attempt to downplay a scandal in which an American diplomat has been accused of trying to smuggle cultural valuables out of Russia, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has issued a statement saying that U.S. policy prohibits diplomats from illegally exporting Russian national treasures.

"The embassy has worked with the State Customs Committee to resolve such issues in accordance with standard diplomatic procedure," the embassy statement said.

Russian customs and security officials on Friday accused a U.S. diplomat of trying to smuggle cultural valuables out of Russia.

The NTV network on Saturday broadcast photos of 44 items found in a shipment of household goods belonging to the diplomat, including silver cutlery, two rugs, one painting and two small samovars. It was not clear in the footage whether any or all of the items were valuable or even of Russian origin.

Russian officials said the diplomat, military attache Philip Hatch, should have had export licenses for the items.

The luggage, which was to have been transported out of Russia by motor vehicle, was seized at the Butovo customs terminal in southern Moscow on June 26, according to a spokesman for the Federal Security Service.

The officer, who asked not to be identified, said Hatch left Russia several days before the seizure of his belongings.

U.S. Embassy officials were invited to the official inspection of Hatch's luggage June 26, the spokesman said. He said they signed a protocol, confirming that the artifacts were found in their colleague's luggage.