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Nine Suspects Appear Before US Court in Russia Spy Case

Drawing showing five of the 10 arrested Russian spy suspects in a New York courtroom, 28 Jun 2010

Nine people accused of spying for Russia are appearing before U.S. courts to request bail, as police in Cyprus search for a suspect who vanished in the case.

Hearings for the nine were being held Thursday in New York, Boston and outside Washington. A 10th suspect in U.S. custody has already been denied bail.

At the Boston hearing, the lawyer for a married Massachusetts couple said the two are only guilty of infiltrating neighborhoods, cocktail parties and parent-teacher school groups. Another hearing for the couple was set for July 16.

U.S. authorities arrested the suspects earlier this week. They are implicated in a plot to gain information on American nuclear weaponry, foreign policy and politics for the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR, while living and working in the U.S.

They face charges of money laundering and failing to register as agents of a foreign government, but so far have not been charged with the more serious offense of espionage.

The man who went missing in Cyprus is accused of supplying money to the alleged U.S. spy ring.

Police in Cyprus say Christopher Robert Metsos failed to appear at a police station in the city of Larnaca Wednesday. He was expected there after Cypriot authorities released him on $33,000 bail the day before.

Authorities arrested Metsos, who was traveling on a Canadian passport, as he tried to board a flight to Budapest, Hungary Tuesday.

Authorities worry that Metsos will have numerous getaway routes off the island, particularly if he flees to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot section in the north, which has no diplomatic relations with southern Cyprus.

Both the White House and the Kremlin have sought to downplay the scandal, as the two countries have recently made gains in mending ties.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it did not expect the arrests to damage relations with Washington.

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