The U.S. ambassador to Moscow has filed a formal protest with Russia over what he says is an "attempted smear" of a U.S. diplomat with a purported sex video involving an apparent prostitute.
Ambassador John Beyrle lodged the protest with the Russian Foreign Ministry Wednesday evening. He told a news broadcast by the U.S. television network ABC it has "no place" in the kind of relationship Washington is trying to build with the Russian Federation. He called the video a montage of a lot of different clips - some of them clearly fabricated.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelley called the video linked to diplomat Kyle Hatcher a "smear campaign in the Russian press, and on the Internet."
The Russian Foreign Ministry is expected to release a statement later Thursday.
ABC news quotes U.S. officials as saying Russian intelligence agents produced the video in an attempt to either recruit or discredit the diplomat. Hatcher, 34-years-old and married, serves as a liaison with religious and human rights groups in Russia.
The grainy video, posted last month on a Web site described as having suspected close links to Russia's Federal Security Service, carries audio of someone making a telephone call on a darkened street. It later cuts away to a portrait photograph of Hatcher and then shows an unidentified couple in a darkened room apparently having sex.
The report quoted a U.S. official as saying several people have examined the video and concluded that it was a fake.
In the interview, Ambassador Beyrle describes Hatcher as "a valued member of the Foreign Service" whose job description "maybe was not to the liking of some people" in Moscow.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.