MOSCOW — Kremlin officials on Wednesday denounced an alleged attempt by a U.S. diplomat to recruit a Russian intelligence officer, but suggested the scandal would have little effect on U.S.-Russia relations.
Earlier this week, Russian authorities briefly detained the diplomat, who was accused of trying to recruit the Russian agent to work for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The diplomat was later expelled from the country.
President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the state news agency Itar-Tass on Wednesday that the incident "does not contribute to the future process of strengthening mutual trust between Russia and the United States and putting our relations on a new level."
Putin's foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, expressed surprise over what he called the "crude and clumsy recruitment" attempt, in light of pledges by both sides to improve cooperation.
Ushakov added, however, that he did not think the incident would affect Russian-U.S. cooperation.
A member of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, also predicted the spy scandal would have little effect on U.S.-Russia relations, noting that the relationship was already strained. Vladimir Burmatov said Wednesday that the passage of the Magnitsky Act by the U.S. Congress last December ended the so-called "reset" of relations, a policy aimed at improving ties between Washington and Moscow.
Last month, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 18 people in accordance with the law, designed to punish Russian officials involved in the imprisonment and controversial death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
"The passage of the Magnitsky List was the end of the so-called 'reset' relations, if they even existed in principle," Burmatov said. "And, it's unlikely, if there's an appropriate reaction from the American side, that this incident that happened with the spy who was caught has the ability to add heat to the situation."
The 18 people on what is known as the Magnitsky List are subject to visa bans and asset freezes. Most of them are Russian officials accused of involvement in the Magnitsky case. In response to release of the Magnitsky List, Russia issued a list of 18 Americans banned from Russian soil.
Also Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in connection with the U.S. diplomat's arrest late Monday. McFaul declined comment following the meeting.
Russia's Federal Security Service identified the diplomat as Ryan Fogle, saying he was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, a lot of cash and written instructions for the Russian intelligence officer he was trying to recruit.
The security service said Fogle worked in the political department at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, as well as for the CIA.