Europe

Moscow holds talks with US ambassador over spy scandal

  • 15 May 2013
  • From the section Europe

The US ambassador to Russia met foreign ministry officials in Moscow to discuss the case of a US diplomat accused of trying to recruit a Russian agent.

Michael McFaul was summoned after Russia said on Tuesday it had detained Ryan Fogle for "provocative actions".

Mr Fogle was declared "persona non grata" and told to leave the country.

The incident did not contribute to "strengthening mutual trust between Russia and the US", a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said.

However, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he did not bring the matter up with US Secretary of State John Kerry, when they met at a conference in Sweden on Tuesday.

"I decided that talking about it would be superfluous, since it is already made public and everyone already understands everything," he said in comments published on the foreign ministry's website.

Mr McFaul spent about 30 minutes at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday but made no comment after his meeting.

'Extra bonuses'

Mr Fogle is said to be a CIA agent who worked as third political secretary at the US embassy in Moscow.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said it detained the US diplomat on Monday evening and held him overnight before handing him over to US authorities.

The US State Department confirmed the arrest.

At the time of his detention, Mr Fogle was wearing a blond wig and reportedly carrying a large sum of money, as well as technical devices and written instructions for the Russian agent he had tried to recruit.

Photos of his detention and alleged possessions have been widely circulated in the Russian media.

State TV also displayed a piece of paper, which it said was Mr Fogle's letter to the Russian officer.

Addressing the recipient as "Dear friend", it offered "up to $1m a year for long-term co-operation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information".

Image caption Russian officials said they had confiscated a large sum of money, wigs and technical equipment

Correspondents say the incident is unlikely to have any long-term political consequences, as Washington and Moscow know that espionage did not end with the Cold War.

But it nevertheless creates an uncomfortable atmosphere at a time when the US and Russia are involved in delicate diplomacy over Syria and in taking cautious steps towards defrosting relations.

The last major espionage case involving the two countries took place in 2010, when 10 people pleaded guilty to spying on the US for Russia.

The alleged agents were deported from the US in exchange for four people the Russians claimed had been spying for the West, in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

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