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Russia Says US Spy Allegations 'Groundless'

  • Gabe Joselow

Russia's Foreign Ministry says allegations of a Russian spy ring in the United States are "groundless" and "unseemly." Meanwhile, an 11th spy suspect, who had been at large, was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday. The Canadian man was arrested in Nicosia at the request of Interpol as he tried to board a flight for Budapest.

A statement released by Russia's Foreign Ministry voiced regret that the arrests of 10 alleged spies in the United States came as President Barack Obama had moved to "reset" relations with Moscow.

The FBI has arrested 10 people who allegedly spied for Russia for up to a decade, posing as civilians while trying to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters earlier he hopes to receive an explanation for the arrests.

Lavrov mocked the timing of the event.

The Justice Department publicized the results of the long investigation just days after Mr. Obama hosted Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the White House.

The defendants are accused of working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR. Prosecutors say the group, dubbed "The Illegals," were tasked with gaining access to U.S. policy-makers, and reporting back to SVR headquarters in Moscow.

A Russian foreign ministry official, Andrei Nesternko issued a statement putting down the Justice Department's announcement as being in the "spirit of the Cold War." He said it is regrettable the case broke as the U.S. and Russia are trying to "reset" relations.

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Assessments, says there are still more questions than answers.

He says one question is whether the accused are Russian or American citizens, or whether they had green cards. He said so far they sound more American than Russian, which means they cannot be expelled and the only solution is to put them in jail if they are guilty.

Konovalov also says no one should be surprised at the idea that spies could be working in either country.

He says special services will exist forever, intelligence is a part of any state and that we should not be naïve to the facts.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former intelligence agent with the Soviet-era KGB, is meeting with former U.S. president Bill Clinton in Moscow. Officials from the prime minister's office say they do not plan to discuss the spy case.