11 Russian ‘spies’ held in US


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Blow to Burger Diplomacy?

Washington/Moscow, June 29

An incident reminiscent of the Cold War era hostilities, the US has arrested 11 persons on charges of spying for Russia, angering Moscow to issue a stern warning that it would be a blow to the Obama-Medvedev ‘burger’ diplomacy and the ‘reset’ in bilateral ties.

The arrests were made on Sunday and yesterday in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, the Department of Justice announced today alleging that the group dubbed the “Illegals” was tasked by the Russian intelligence agency SVR to enter the US, assume false identities and carry out espionage activities.

The defendants, eight of whom are married couples, held jobs in fields such as finance and media. One of the defendants remains at large. The FBI said the arrests are a result of multi-year investigations.

“These Russian secret agents work to hide all connections between themselves and Russia, even as they act at the directions and under the control of SVR, these secrets agents are typically called “illegals”, the FBI said in its complaint filed before a US court yesterday.

Reacting sharply to the arrest, Russia warned that it would be a blow to the recent ‘burger’ diplomacy between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev and the ‘reset’ in bilateral ties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow wanted an explanation from the United States over the arrest of the Russian “spies”.

“They have not explained to us what is going on. I hope they will,” Lavrov told journalists following talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem, adding “the only thing I can say is that the timing was chosen with a particular care.” In documents submitted to the court, the FBI said the “Illegals” agents of the SVR generally receive extensive training before coming to the US.

This training has typically focused on, among other things, including the use of brush-passes, short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages. — PTI

Allegations baseless, says Russia

Moscow: Russia on Tuesday conceded that the 11 persons arrested for suspected espionage were its nationals, but said they had not committed actions against US interests, even as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that the scandal would not affect bilateral relations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry today said the persons arrested by FBI were “Russian citizens who found themselves on US territory at different times. But they have not committed any actions directed against the US interests”. — PTI