News / Europe

Canadian Arrested in Connection with Alleged Russian Spy Ring

Cypriot police say they have arrested a Canadian man wanted in connection with an alleged Russian spy ring broken up in the United States Sunday with the arrest of 10 suspects.

Authorities say the Canadian suspect -- identified as Christopher Robert Metsos, 54 -- was arrested at the request of Interpol Tuesday at an airport in Nicosia, as he attempted to board a flight for Budapest.  

In Jerusalem, visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded more information about the arrests.  He also questioned their timing, noting that the FBI sweep came just days after U.S. President Barack Obama hosted his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, at the White House.

U.S. court papers describe the accused as "illegals" carrying out long-term, deep cover assignments in the United States for the Russian foreign intelligence service, SVR.

U.S. media reports say the suspects, charged with conspiracy and money laundering, had lived for more than a decade in U.S. cities and held non-governmental jobs, some of them in policy think-tanks and universities.

The alleged agents were directed to gather information on subjects such as nuclear weaponry, U.S. foreign policy and Congressional politics.  

Court papers filed by U.S. prosecutors say the purpose of the suspected spy mission was detailed in an encrypted SVR message to suspects Richard and Cynthia Murphy.

Prosecutors say that message, intercepted and decoded by U.S. authorities, described the spy mission as "a long-term service trip."  The message also said their "education, bank accounts, car, house, etc., serve one goal: ...to search and develop ties in policy making circles in the U.S."

The Russian intelligence agency refused to comment on the matter.  

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, while the money laundering charge carries a 20-year maximum sentence.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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